Travellers with a criminal record are often unsure whether they can apply for a New Zealand eTA or visa.
Whilst New Zealand does have strict character requirements, having a past criminal conviction does not automatically prevent an individual from being granted entry to the country.
The information below explains the circumstances in which it is possible to obtain an eTA for New Zealand country or a visitor visa despite having previously committed an offence.
New Zealand good character criteria
All foreigners wishing to enter New Zealand must meet the visa or NZeTA requirements in order to be granted access.
One of the essential entrance criteria is that applicants are of “good character”. In general, being of good character means that the traveller is not considered a threat to the reputation of New Zealand or a risk to security or public interest.
To be considered of good character, visitors should not have any character issues. Serious character issues will result in entrance to New Zealand being blocked whilst foreigners with minor character issues may still gain access.
Visa and entry permits will not be granted to anyone with serious character issues
Neither an eTA entry permit nor a New Zealand visitor visa will be granted to travellers who:
- Have received a prison term of 5 or more years for committing a criminal offence
- Have, in the last 10 months, been convicted of a criminal offense and sentenced to prison for one year or more
- Have ever been deported or removed from any nation
- Are banned from entering New Zealand
If any of the above apply, a foreigner will not meet the good character requirements and will not be granted the New Zealand travel document they need.
Entrance to New Zealand will also be prohibited if officials have reasons to believe that an individual is likely to commit an offence in New Zealand which would be punishable by imprisonment.
The only way an individual with a serious character issue can gain access to New Zealand is with a special direction. A special direction is when the Immigration Minister of New Zealand waives a requirement and is only granted in exceptional circumstances.
A character waiver is required by anyone with certain character issues
Travellers with less serious character issues, such as those listed below, may be granted a New Zealand eTA or visa if immigration officials waive the good character requirement.
- Have been convicted of immigration, citizenship or passport law offences
- Have ever been imprisoned for a criminal offence
- Are under investigation or wanted for questioning
- Have been charged with an offense which carries a 12-month or longer jail term if convicted
If any of the above applies, a full explanation with supporting evidence should be provided in order to be considered for a visa or eTA.
Immigration authorities may waive the good character requirement in certain cases
New Zealand immigration authorities will consider the applicant’s specific circumstances to decide whether or not they can waive the good character requirement. Several factors are taken into account when reaching a decision:
- The seriousness of the offence
- How many offences have been committed
- How long ago the criminal activity occurred
- If the applicant has family legally resident in New Zealand
If the decision is taken to waiver the good character requirement, a foreign national with a less serious character issue may still be granted the relevant NZeTA or visa type.
How to apply for the NZeTA with a criminal record
To obtain the NZeTA with a criminal record, foreign nationals should follow the standard online procedure for requesting the travel authorisation.
Immigration authorities may contact the applicant for further supporting documentation if they are not fully satisfied that an individual meets the good character requirements.
All NZeTA applicants need a passport issued by one of the eligible countries. The passport must be valid for a minimum of 3 months beyond the intended date of departure from New Zealand.
The New Zealand eTA process is fully electronic. Visitors should complete the online form with basic personal and passport information including:
- Full name, address, and date of birth
- Purpose of the visit
- Contact details, including an email address
- Passport details
To be considered for an NZeTA, questions about criminal convictions included on the application form must be answered truthfully.
On completion of the form, the NZeTA fees are paid using a debit or credit card and it is submitted for review.
It is recommended that anyone with a criminal record requests the NZeTA well in advance. Whilst most requests are processed within 1 working day, travellers with character issues should allow extra time in case additional documentation is required to support their application.