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Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions


Q. What are the new USA requirements and when are they effective from?

A. The new requirements mean that all passports issued from 26 October 2006 must contain a biometric identifier for travel to the USA under the visa waiver programme. Machine-Readable passports issued prior to this date are not affected.

Q. Why is it being introduced?

A. It is being introduced to further enhance the security of the New Zealand passport and ensure New Zealand meets the requirements for USA “visa waiver” border entry from 26 October 2006.

New Zealand prides itself on having one of the best passports in the world. These enhancements will strengthen the already good reputation of the New Zealand passport.

Q. What is the visa waiver programme and how do these new requirements affect the programme?

A. The visa waiver arrangement allows travellers from New Zealand and the other 26 visa waiver countries to enter the USA for holiday or business purposes for a period up to 90 days without a visa. Providing all passports, issued from 26 October 2006, contain the microchip (with the image of the holder’s photograph) the passport holder will still be able to enter the US according to the rules of the visa waiver programme. If a person has a passport issued prior to that date and it is still valid then they will continue to be able to enter under the visa waiver programme, providing it is a machine-readable passport. (see below)

Q. Will the US requirement apply to all New Zealand passports?

A. This new requirement will apply for all passports issued from 26 October 2006. If a person has a passport issued prior to that date and it is still valid then the requirement will not apply. They will still be able to travel to the USA. Passport holders will still need to have a machine-readable passport. (Nearly 98 per cent of passports are currently machine-readable.)

Q. How do I know if my passport is machine-readable?

A. If you have a machine-readable passport then the passport number will begin with:
  • The letter X,L,N or F; or
  • The letters AA, AB or EA
If you have a non machine-readable passport then the passport number will begin with:
  • The letter J; or
  • The letter M.

Q. What happens if a New Zealander needs to travel to the US and doesn’t have a machine-readable passport? Are non-machine readable passports valid for entry to countries other than the US?

A. Passport holders with a non-machine readable passport will need to apply for a new machine-readable passport or obtain a USA visa prior to entering the USA if travelling there from October 2004. Non machine-readable passports remain a valid travel document and can continue to be used for entry into other countries according to existing visa arrangements.


Q. Are most passports machine-readable?

A. Yes. Nearly 98 per cent of all current New Zealand passports are machine-readable. Most non-machine readable passports are likely to have been issued outside New Zealand, Australia or the United Kingdom. The non-machine readable passports will be phased out in the future.

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Last updated: 03/02/2006