COVID-19: Applying for an early vaccine for travel overseas

If you need to travel overseas from New Zealand, you can apply for an early COVID-19 vaccine on compassionate grounds or for reasons of national significance.

Last updated: 22 April 2021

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You can now apply for early access to the vaccine if you must travel overseas from New Zealand on or before 31 August 2021. You'll need to apply at least four weeks before you travel.


Who can apply for an early vaccine

The application process for early access to the vaccine is different depending on your reason for overseas travel.

Travelling overseas from New Zealand on compassionate grounds

If you're travelling overseas to:

  • access critical medical care that is not available in New Zealand for yourself or your dependant
  • visit an immediate family member who is dying
  • provide critical care and protection for a dependant eg, your child.

Find out how to apply

Travelling for reasons of national significance

If you're travelling overseas:

  • to protect the safety and security of New Zealand’s right to govern itself
  • for Government-approved humanitarian efforts as part of New Zealand’s commitments to foreign aid, international disaster responses, or supporting Pacific and Realm countries' recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic
  • to participate in major international events where travel is necessary to represent New Zealand
  • for nationally significant trade negotiations.

Agency sponsors will apply on your behalf

The agency sponsor responsible for the international event must apply on behalf of those travelling for reasons of national significance. We can't accept applications from individuals.

Agencies will contact individuals that are part of a group they're making applications for.

Overseas travel that won't be considered

We won't consider applications for early vaccine access if you're travelling overseas:

  • to a country New Zealand has approved for quarantine free travel, eg Australia
  • for private, recreational or commercial travel
  • to reunite with family
  • to attend a funeral or memorial service
  • to attend a school or university.

Criteria you must meet

Before applying, you must:

  • be a New Zealand citizen, resident, or visa holder, or someone unable to leave New Zealand since the international borders have closed
  • be 18 years old or over (if you're 16 or 17 years of age, a guardian will need to apply on your behalf)
  • not be able to delay or conduct the proposed activity through any other means (eg online video communication)
  • have a flight booked on or before 31 August 2021
  • be able to be fully vaccinated before departure
  • be able to provide supporting evidence for all requirements.

If you don't meet the criteria

If you don’t meet the criteria, it doesn’t mean you can’t travel. You just won’t have early access to the vaccine.


What evidence you need to provide

If you believe you meet the criteria to apply, you’ll need to provide evidence that you meet the requirements. 

Make sure to include all the information we’ve asked you to provide – if you don’t, it may take us longer to process your application. At this stage, we can only accept documents in English.

Medical documents must be clear enough to read (preferably typed). They need to clearly state the name of the doctor or treatment provider and the name of the patient/s involved.

In all situations

You’ll need to provide:

  • evidence of your confirmed flight booking with your departure details
  • a copy of the front page of your passport (and any dependant you're applying for). We'll accept photos of your passport if the identification information is clear. Make sure you check the quality of your photo before you send it to us.

Accessing critical medical care that is not available in New Zealand

You’ll need to provide a formal letter (or similar) from your doctor or treatment provider. This must state that you or your dependant need to access this care and that it's not available in New Zealand.

Visiting an immediate family member who is dying

You’ll need to provide a letter (or similar) from your family member's doctor or treatment provider. This must state that you need to travel immediately because your family member is in their final stages of life. Where possible, this should include their anticipated life expectancy.

An immediate family member includes your:

  • spouse or partner
  • parent
  • child
  • brother or sister
  • grandparent
  • grandchild
  • spouse’s or partner’s parent. 

Providing critical care and protection for a dependant

A dependant is an individual that you support. For example, someone who relies on you for day-to-day support. This may include someone with an intellectual or physical disability, or if you have a power of attorney for the individual.

You’ll need to provide:

  • a formal letter confirming the dependant’s safety or wellbeing is at risk. This can be from:
    • NZ Police (or the police in your destination country)
    • a child protection agency
    • a court
    • a doctor or treatment provider
  • a formal letter outlining a custody agreement for the dependent. This could be:
    • court documents
    • custody records.

Apply for an early vaccine

You’ll need to submit your application at least four weeks before you travel. This allows enough time to process your application and get two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at least three weeks apart.

It should take 2–5 working days to process your application. Working days are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm and don't include public holidays.

To apply, you’ll need to:

  • meet all the criteria
  • have all the supporting evidence to show that you meet the requirements
  • complete your own application if you're 18 years or older. If you’re applying for a dependant, you’ll need to complete a separate application form on their behalf.

If you’re 16 or 17 years of age, a guardian will need to apply on your behalf.

Answers these questions to get started

Before you can apply for early access to the COVID-19 vaccine, you'll need to answer these questions.


Getting vaccinated before you travel

You’ll need to have two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, at least three weeks apart before you can travel.

If your application is successful, your DHB will contact you to make a vaccine appointment.

Returning to New Zealand

It’s too early to confirm if people who have been vaccinated can transmit COVID-19. When arriving in New Zealand you'll still need to complete 14 days in managed isolation and quarantine, unless you're arriving from a quarantine-free travel country.

Quarantine-free travel – Unite against COVID-19


If your application is declined

You can reapply if your application is declined and you have new information that you think may change our decision.

If you still decide to travel

If you don’t meet the criteria for an early COVID-19 vaccine or your application is declined, you can still travel. However, international travel is not recommended at this time.

Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas – Safetravel

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