I have to admit to a guilty pleasure – I love watching airport drama shows like “Border Control NZ”. Perhaps it’s my intellectual interest in seeing the work we do playing out live on the television (or maybe they are just great TV shows; I leave that to you to decide). Whatever the case, these shows give a good insight into the reality of crossing into a country at the border and how immigration officers deal with visa related issues.

In an age where travel is more accessible, it pays to ensure that you are prepared while travelling. According to a recent NZ Herald article, more than 1300 people were denied entry at the NZ border. How could so many people be refused entry, and why?

An explanation for a large number of these refused entries may be NZ’s visa waiver policy –a range of different countries are exempt from having to apply for a visitor visa, so long as they can show that their intention is to simply travel and sightsee. The five countries listed as having the greatest numbers of nationals refused entry are all on the visa waiver list. This makes sense; people from countries that are required to apply for a visa must already go through a rigorous process to show they meet the particular visa category requirements, so they have proven to INZ the reason for their visit. However, those who are eligible for a visa waiver may still yet be required to prove the reason for their stay. Depending on what they tell immigration officers, this can lead to some tricky situations.

An example is that of a Chilean national who readily admitted to immigration officers that she had planned to look after her niece while staying with family, which in INZ’s view met the definition of “work” and meant that she did not come to NZ with the lawful purpose of merely visiting.

The practical consequences of refused entry are clear. A person may travel thousands of kilometres, only to find that they are refused entry where they turn up at arrivals, meaning a total waste of time and money and can mean difficulties later on down the line when applying for visas. Many countries require you to confirm whether or not you have ever been refused entry into a country. Raised as a character issue, this can delay future visa processing or be grounds to have your visa declined, especially depending upon the nature of the refused entry.

So should you find yourself in a similar situation to Ms Garcia, the golden rule is “if in doubt, seek advice”.

  • If you hold a passport from a visa waiver country, but you think you may end up working (or plan to work) during your stay in New Zealand, get a visa in advance. Many young people are eligible to apply for a work visa under any one of the different Working Holiday Schemes.
  • If you are planning on taking up full time, long term employment, get a visa in advance. There are a number of hurdles to go through if you would like to work in New Zealand and it pays to get everything sorted out well in advance.
  • If you are only planning on visiting for a short period, make sure you have everything in order to show immigration officers at the border that you only intend to stay for a temporary period and for genuine visiting purposes. Have copies of your itinerary, hotel bookings, return flight details, evidence of funds to maintain you during your stay in New Zealand, and any other information which would help show this. This will give you peace of mind and allow you easy travel through the border and into New Zealand.

As always, if you have any doubts in mind at all, your friendly immigration lawyers are here to lend a hand. Don’t get tripped up at the border and ruin a good holiday, as the consequences could last longer than you may think.