COVID-19: Advice for travellers

Information for people travelling, entering or leaving New Zealand.

Last updated: 12 January 2021

From 18 January 2021, testing on day 0 (first day) of arrival into New Zealand will be required unless you’re arriving from Australia, Antarctica or some Pacific Island nations.

From 23:59pm (NZT) on 15 January 2021, travellers from the UK or US, bound for New Zealand, are required to have a negative test result for COVID-19 before departing.

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See also - related information on the Aviation sector page


For New Zealanders currently overseas

If you are returning to New Zealand, please consider the following in the 14 days before departure:

  • avoid going to high risk events such as parties, social gatherings or crowded places
  • avoid contact with COVID-19 cases or contacts of cases
  • stay home as much as possible to limit exposure to other people.

Doing these things will help reduce the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 and bringing it home with you.

Check the SafeTravel website for the latest advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


Travellers arriving from any country

The Government has announced temporary restrictions on travellers arriving in New Zealand as a precautionary measure to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

The restrictions prevent foreign nationals travelling from any country from entering New Zealand. See Border controls for more information.

People who are exempt from the temporary restrictions are:

  • New Zealand citizens (including those from the three Countries of the Realm: Tokelau, Niue and the Cook Islands), permanent residents and their immediate family 
  • Australian citizens and permanent residents whose primary place of established residence is New Zealand
  • air crews who have been using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Every traveller, including those listed above, arriving into New Zealand on a flight which departs from another country must go into one of two facilities for a minimum of 14 days (336 hours).

All travellers arriving in New Zealand must wear face masks from the time they disembark the aircraft until they arrive at their hotel. Further information about use of face masks will be provided at the hotel.

Day 0 testing

The Covid-19 Response Minister has announced new requirements for people arriving from any country into New Zealand. This excludes people arriving from Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Island nations.

You’ll be required to:

  • have a COVID-19 test on day 0, ie. when you first arrive into managed isolation
  • remain in your room until the result of that test is complete.

These new requirements apply as of:

  • if you’re arriving from the UK or US – from 11:59pm on 31 December 2020
  • if you’re arriving from any other country – this will be progressively introduced at Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) facilities over three days, starting from Monday 18 January 2021.

As of now, if travellers are symptomatic on arrival they will go straight to a quarantine facility.

Day 0 test

It will be the same PCR nasal swab that people currently receive but is in addition to the existing day 3 and day 12 tests.

The length of time it takes for results to come back

It usually takes 24-48 hours. People will be contacted directly if positive. They will be sent a text if negative.

What happens if the test is negative?

People will complete the remainder of their 14 days managed isolation as normal. They will be required to undertake a further test about day 3 of their stay and again about day 12 before they leave.

What happens if the test is positive?

If the result is positive the person will be transferred to a quarantine facility. This is several days earlier than previously would have been the case.


Pre-departure COVID-19 test

The new pre-departure testing requirements come into effect from 23:59pm (NZT) on 15 January 2021. Travellers from the United Kingdom or United States bound for New Zealand are required to have a negative test result for COVID-19 in the 72 hours before departure. 

Infringement offences will apply to people arriving in New Zealand from the UK or the US without the required evidence. In the first two weeks (until 29 January 2021), the focus of enforcement action will be on education and compliance.

Pre-departure testing requirements will soon be expanded to all countries and territories excluding Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Island nations.

All travellers, including anyone exempted from the pre-departure testing requirement, will still be required to complete the 14 days mandatory isolation which applies to all new arrivals into New Zealand

Exclusions from pre-departure testing

  • Children under two will be exempt from pre-departure testing.
  • Passengers transiting through the UK and US for no more than 96 hours before departing for New Zealand will be exempt for now from pre-departure testing.
  • People who can present a medical certificate as a past recovered case of COVID-19 will also be exempt, if they are considered no longer infectious.

What UK and US pre-departure COVID-19 tests are approved by the Director General of Health?  

Travellers entering New Zealand on trips from the UK and the US will be required to have a COVID-19 test (of a type approved by the Director-General of Health) no more than 72 hours before the scheduled departure time of the first flight (leg) of their journey to New Zealand. This means you will need to have had both your COVID-19 sample taken and the result returned within 72 hours of your scheduled first flight departure time.

The Director-General of Health specifies the kind of pre-departure test that is required in order to safeguard travellers to New Zealand, flight crew, and New Zealand workers at our MIQ facilities. New Zealand currently accepts results from the following tests:

  • PCR and RT-PCR tests
  • LAMP tests
  • Antigen tests

The Ministry of Health classifies these tests in two tiers:

Tier 1 tests are PCR tests for the virus – these are the most sensitive test for COVID-19 and are preferred. If you arrive in New Zealand, you will also undergo 2-3 PCR tests while in an MIQ facility.

Tier 2 tests are either LAMP tests or antigen tests. These tests are also currently acceptable as pre-departure tests.

Samples for testing can be obtained via nasopharyngeal, anterior nasal, oral, sputum, or saliva, which may be conducted in-home or by a trained sampler, but must be processed by a laboratory recognised in the country of origin as authorised or accredited to conduct tests. Some testing laboratories allow samples to be taken at home – in these cases a sample can be taken at home, but the sample must be analysed by the laboratory. This means that the rapid (point-of-care) antigen tests conducted at home (akin to an ‘at home’ pregnancy test, with two blue lines displayed for a positive result), are not acceptable.

Testing laboratories must be able to issue a dated report for you to show at check-in. It should have:

  • Traveller’s name
  • Traveller’s date of birth
  • Date and time the COVID-19 test was conducted
  • Name of testing laboratory
  • Test type
  • Test result

Always remember to check the requirements of other countries you are going to be transiting through. They may have requirements that are different to what New Zealand requires.

For more information and frequently asked questions about the UK and US pre-departure testing requirements, visit the Unite against COVID-19 website.

Proof of negative result on arrival

  • A hard copy or electronic copy of the test result from an accredited laboratory will be acceptable documentation of a negative test
  • Upon arrival in New Zealand travellers will be required to produce proof of your negative test result to a Customs officer during your passport processing. Either a hard copy or an electronic copy will be accepted.

Flight delays, cancellations or test results delayed

In rare cases, the requirement of a test 72 hours in advance may be extended to 96 hours if a person’s flight has been delayed or cancelled, or test results haven’t been received in time. In this situation, the flight must be rescheduled or rebooked to depart within 24 hours

Why it's necessary

We’ve been monitoring overseas developments very closely, and, like many other countries, have heightened concerns about the new variants of the virus and their potential to spread more rapidly.

The UK and US pre-departure testing requirements are an extra precautionary step to provide another layer of protection for New Zealand from COVID-19.


Travellers transiting through New Zealand

Information for travellers who will transit through New Zealand en route to other countries is available on the Immigration New Zealand website.


If you become unwell after arriving in New Zealand

Contact Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453 if you begin to feel unwell. The symptoms of COVID-19 are a cough, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, sneezing and runny nose, and temporary loss of smell.


For travellers leaving New Zealand

Some countries require travellers to confirm a negative COVID-19 test before they leave New Zealand. You can check the requirements of the country you are travelling to, by contacting their local High Commission, Embassy or Consulate in New Zealand. 

If you need a COVID-19 test prior to departure, you can organise it through your primary care provider (general practice or GP). They will tell you how much it costs and how to pay. 

Contact your doctor to book a test once your travel plans are confirmed. The test needs to be taken as close as possible to when you will be travelling – check with your High Commission, Embassy or Consulate for the timing that applies to your country. 

It usually takes several days for test results to be available, but it could be longer, so people need to ensure they don’t leave it too late, especially around the weekend.

If your travel plans change to a later day than expected, a re-test and negative result may be required.

Entry requirements may differ between countries but you will probably need a hard-copy of your negative COVID-19 test result to present to check-in before boarding the plane. Your general practice or GP will be able to give this to you. You will also probably need to show the result to Customs/Immigration on arrival at your destination. 

If the test is positive, you will be notified and won’t be able to travel.

Questions and answers on COVID-19 testing when leaving New Zealand

I am returning home – how do I know if my country requires an exit test for COVID-19?

Some countries require travellers to confirm a negative COVID-19 test before they leave New Zealand. Travellers should check the requirements of the country they are travelling to, by contacting their local High Commission, Embassy or Consulate in New Zealand. 

What happens if the test is positive?

If the test is positive, your GP will talk with you about what happens next. You will not be able to travel.

How much does it cost to be tested?

Costs will vary – your doctor or general practice will be able to tell you what the charge will be.

How long does it take to get a test result?

It sometimes takes several days for test results to be available, but it could be longer, so make sure you don’t leave it too late. If your country requires you to have a test before leaving New Zealand, call your doctor to book in for a test as soon as your travel plans are confirmed. The test needs to be taken close to when you will be travelling – check with your High Commission, Embassy or Consulate for the timing that applies to your country.

How close to when I travel do I need to be tested?

The test needs to be taken close to when you will be travelling. Different countries have different requirements for timing. Check with your High Commission, Embassy or Consulate for the timing that applies to your country.

My home country requires an exit test for COVID-19, what is the process?

  • Contact your general practice, and go in for a COVID-19 test.
  • You may need to pay for the test yourself, at the time.
  • Your test will be sent to a local laboratory, which will provide a result to your GP. 
  • Your GP will let you know the result of the test. It usually takes several days for test results to be available, but it could be longer, so make sure you don’t leave it too late.
  • Assuming the test is negative, you will be given a hard-copy document with the results to take to the airport. In the unlikely event the test is positive, your GP will talk with you about what happens next.
  • Take your negative test results with you to airport check-in. You may also need to present your results at Customs/Immigration on arrival at your destination.

Do I need to self-isolate while I’m awaiting my test results?

You do not need to self-isolate while awaiting test results, unless you have travelled overseas in the past 14 days or been in contact with people who have recently travelled or who are close contacts of a confirmed case, however if you are feeling unwell you should contact your doctor.

Does a negative test mean I don’t have the virus?

A negative test does not guarantee that you do not have COVID-19. Sometimes people with the virus may still have a negative test. You can also test positive for COVID-19, even though you are no longer infectious.

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