An email to the editor from Jéan van Wyngaardt a would-be tourist to NZ stranded in Singapore due to confusion over NZ entry requirements
I thought I’d write to you and let you know what happened when my partner and I tried to book a holiday to NZ (and hopefully prevent future tourists from going through the same experience)
What has started out as an exciting adventure has turned into a $9000NZD nightmare. My partner and I are due to visit New Zealand next week (15th Jan 2020), it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip we have been looking forward to for many years. Before purchasing tickets or making any reservations, we checked the immigration requirements on the New Zealand Immigration Government website (well before NZeTA officially launched) and felt super confident that we both qualified for NZeTA.
It’s only when we decided to apply at the beginning of December that the nightmare officially began.
My partner is travelling on a polish passport, and I’m a UK permenant resident who holds a South African passport. We thought we had all the bases covered, the NZeTA visa waiver page states you can apply for NZeTA if you have the right to reside permanently in the UK. As it turns out, the way this is written only applies to UK passport holders, which is incredibly ambiguous. I mean, why would a UK passport holder not have the right to reside in the UK? When contacting the NZ immigration call centre, it took around 30 minutes of back and forth conversation and being put on hold for the support team to clarify because even they were not sure. The way this is worded is not how it should be interpreted.
So what does the website say? On the visa waiver countries and territories page, it states that an NZeTA must be requested before travelling if "you travel on a passport from a country on the list of visa waiver countries and territories". However, the list includes additional information next to some of the countries, implying special conditions. Any reasonable person would conclude that a UK permanent resident fits this criteria, but as it turns out - the information is misleading.
I immediately applied for a Holiday Visitor Visa well within the 30 days indicated timeline. The advisor from the New Zealand Application Centre in London advised I still had enough time to get a Visitor Visa approved. We’re now 30 days in and my application hasn’t even been assigned to a case worker. No matter who I email or call, the answers are frustratingly cold, despite clearly indicating how it’s not entirely our fault based on the information provided.
Looking at this situation now, it’s really upsetting to think I’m going to miss out on an adventure of a lifetime. We’re due to leave for Singapore on Sunday 12th Jan, where we’re planning to stay for 2 days. On Wednesday 15th Jan, it’s likely I will be left stranded in Singapore while my partner goes on ahead to NZ with the planned trip. At best, I might be able to afford to stay in Singapore for a few days hoping to get a visa approved, but ultimately, I might be headed home early.
Thanks for taking time to read this. I thought it was worth sharing, especially if it prompts the immigration service to consider re-writing their content to make it super clear and helps future tourists to avoid the same trap.