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New Zealand passports | Uruwhenua Aotearoa

The Department of Internal Affairs | Te Tari Taiwhenua


Travelling to (or through) the United States

Find out about the specific travel requirements for New Zealanders travelling to or through the United States

If you are visiting the United States, or just passing through on your way to your next destination, New Zealand passport holders need to meet certain requirements. If you plan ahead you may not need to apply for a visa.

On this page:


Online registration of travellers is required 72 hours before you travel

Important: ESTA requirements have been reviewed

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made changes to the ESTA eligibility requirements that may affect some New Zealanders.


The United States Department of Homeland Security will determine your eligibility to be granted and maintain an ESTA NOT the Department of Internal Affairs.

New Zealanders travelling to the United States without a visa must obtain online authorisation to travel at least 72 hours before departure. This process became mandatory from 12 January 2009.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) assists in determining eligibility to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP). New Zealand is one of over 30 countries included in the programme, which allows visitors for tourism or business to spend up to 90 days in the United States.

You can apply at any time prior to travel; however, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recommends that applications be submitted no less than 72 hours prior to travel. In most cases you will receive a response within seconds.

ESTA checklist

  • complete an online application form at . (The ESTA registration system is a website run by the United States Government, and is not associated with the New Zealand Passport office, or the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs).
  • you will need to provide your personal details, passport information, the airline you are booked on and other details.
  • ESTA permits are valid, unless revoked, for up to 2 years or until your New Zealand passport expires, whichever comes first.
  • ESTA permits can be used for multiple entries into the United States.

Important: you are still not guaranteed entry to the United States

An approved travel authorisation via ESTA is not a guarantee you will be allowed into the United States at a port of entry. ESTA approval only authorises you to board a carrier for travel to the United States without first having applied for a visa.

To learn more about ESTA visit


Machine readable passports are required

All New Zealand citizens travelling to, or through the United States should have a machine-readable passport to satisfy United States visa-waiver requirements. Having a machine readable passport allows passport holders from over 30 countries, including New Zealand, to be in the United States for tourism or business purposes for a maximum period of 90 days.

How to check you have a machine readable passport

If your passport is a machine-readable version then the passport number will begin with:

  • the letter N or F, OR
  • the letters AA, AB, EA, EB, LA, LH, LN, LL or LK.

If your passport is a non machine-readable version then the passport number will begin with:

  • the letter M

Most non machine-readable passports are likely to have been issued outside New Zealand, Australia or the United Kingdom.

If you are still unsure, contact the Passport office, or ask your travel agent who should be able to advise you.

What to do if you don’t have a machine readable passport

If you do not hold a machine-readable passport you can:


If you’re travelling on an Emergency Travel Document, you need a visa

All holders of a New Zealand Emergency Travel Document transiting through (not stopping) or visiting the United States will require a visa. This became mandatory from 1 July 2009.

If you are transiting through the United States you should seek a transit visa (class C1) from the nearest United States Embassy prior to your departure. A transit visa may be able to be issued in 24 hours.

If you are planning on entering (stopping over in) the USA then you will require a non-immigrant visa (class B1 - Business or B2 – Tourist) from the United States authorities.

The United States Customs & Border Protection Service may exercise discretion at ports of entry if you are travelling for medical or other emergency reasons, but you may be detained for further processing and/or denied admission.

The United States Customs and Border Protection website has more information about visa requirements for the United States.