Applying for a Visitor Visa to NZ - Common Pitfalls

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

This article was prepared in April 2013. It is intended as general information and not specific legal advice. If you want legal advice about a problem, you can contact the author below.



Many applicants underestimate the breadth of information needed to successfully apply for a visitor visa to New Zealand. This article addresses some common pitfalls and practical solutions to overcome them.


Do you need a visa?

There are more than 57 countries around the world that are considered visa-waiver countries. If you are a citizen of any of the listed countries and you are planning a visit for three months or less, then you might not need to apply for a visitor visa. You can find a full list of these countries on the Immigration New Zealand (INZ) website at:

Full List of Countries on the Immigration New Zealand Website (last accessed 23 April 2013)

Even if you are from a visa-waiver country, the grant of a visitor visa on arrival is not automatic. If you write on your arrival card that you intend to work in New Zealand, it is highly likely that you will be refused entry as a visitor. If you have had immigration problems in the past, such as breaching the conditions of any visa granted, you may also be refused entry.


What if I am not from a visa-waiver country?

You will need to apply for a visitor visa.

A number of countries (especially those not on the visa-waiver list) are considered to be "high-risk". INZ have a secretive profiling group that assesses which countries are high-risk. The list is kept secret. Applications from high-risk countries are generally assessed much more stringently. Yes, life is unfair.


What can I do on a visitor visa?

Holidaying and sightseeing are the most commonly acceptable forms of visit to New Zealand. Family and social visits are also acceptable.

Business consultation is listed as acceptable for visitors but there is always the potential that you could be considered as being 'in employment' in New Zealand.

Talk to a legal advisor about what you are actually going to be doing in New Zealand before you come visa-free or make an application.


What do I need to provide with my application?

It depends. The stock standard documents required are: a completed application form, evidence of funds (usually a bank statement) and a return air ticket.

The rest of the documents will depend upon what you propose to do as a visitor in NZ. For example, if you are coming for a one-day business conference, you will need to provide an invitation to that conference.

It also depends on whether you are from a "high-risk" country.

INZ might also want proof of financial and social nexus to your home country.

Why? Because INZ is looking to establish whether you are a bona fide applicant that will return home after the expiry of your visa. The more established you are in your home country, both financially and socially, the more likely INZ think you will return to your home country rather than remaining unlawfully in New Zealand.

For example, if you are from China, you would want to demonstrate that you have a modest paying job, you have obtained leave from your employer for the trip to New Zealand, proof of any assets owned in China, evidence that most (if not all) of your family reside in China, and any other evidence to suggest that you have strong social ties in China.

You won't find any of the above requirements on the INZ application forms. In fact, when INZ write to you expressing their concern that you are not a bona fide applicant, they might not even expressly ask you for financial and social nexus documents. You are supposed to understand this by yourself, and now you do.


Having problems applying for a visitor visa?

Talk to Kishen Kommu.  Kishen is an Associate at McVeagh Fleming specialising in the areas of immigration law and civil litigation.  Kishen can be contacted on +64 9 306 6748 or by email (