If there is a trend for Immigration New Zealand to refuse foreign nationals the ability to board planes based on a concern about their intentions, this is not surprising. We were alerted to this risk in a case from 2014 where Immigration New Zealand told someone over the phone that they should not bother booking a flight because they would be turned back.
In that case INZ is able to revoke someone’s visa waiver status, pretty much on the spot, and we found that there is no guarantee that it can be reinstated. Visa waivers are available for nationals of many countries (North America and Europe in particular) who do not need to apply for a visa in order to visit.
The situation where border officers are turning people away as they try to board is a little different. This involves Advance Passenger Processing (APP), where they are obliged by law to provide information to INZ about people planning to travel. The decision to refuse boarding actually lies with INZ officials, but it may be done through an “automated electronic notification”, and it could be that if the border official declares that they have their suspicions then INZ effectively rubber-stamps this finding. We don’t have enough information to be sure about this and it could well be happening with other countries as well. So far we have seen this trend emerging with South Africans travelling to New Zealand and we encourage other nationals to speak up in the comments below if they’ve experienced something similar.
This APP decision-making is not cancellation of visa-waiver status, but the result will probably be the same; if the person tries to travel again then an Alert may pop up against their name because of the previous incident and they would not be able to travel.
As we have previously warned in a recent blog post, no matter where you’re coming from, if your plans to visit New Zealand might be more than just for sight-seeing – and particularly if you plan to come for a longer time than usual – you should seriously consider making a formal visa application. This may be frustrating for some, but it is better than earning yourself a system Alert and a record for being a potential risk, which is difficult to remove once it goes against your name. Best to close the stable door before that horse bolts.