What happens if I have a criminal conviction and want to travel to other countries?
You’ll need to check with the embassy or high commission of the country you want to travel to. A list of embassies is available at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.
For information on travelling to Australia and the USA, see the information provided below. If you are travelling to another destination, these cases may give you an idea of what to expect when travelling overseas with a criminal record.
Back to top
Can I travel to Australia if I have a criminal record?
Most New Zealanders are entitled to a Special Category Visa (SCV) because of our relationship with Australia.
If you have criminal convictions, you may not be entitled to a SCV and must obtain the permission of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) in Melbourne.
To do this, download and complete a Consent to Disclosure form, which allows the Police to send your details to the Australian DIAC, and mail it to:
Pricewaterhouse Coopers Tower
186-194 Quay Street
Once the Consulate has received your form, they will decide whether you need to apply for a visa to enter Australia. The decision process should take around three weeks.
If you do require a visa, the Consulate will send you a visitor visa application pack. After you have completed and returned the application to them, it will be forwarded to the Visa Applicant Character Consideration Unit (VACCU) in Melbourne for character assessment. This part of the process can take several months.
The DIAC Character Requirements factsheet gives you an idea of what to expect.
More information about the process is on the Australian High Commission website. If you need help with your application, you can find it at your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau.
Back to top
I want to travel to the USA but I have a previous criminal conviction. Will that prevent me from going there?
Most New Zealand Citizens can travel to the US without a visa using ‘e-passports’ (passports with an identification chip in them) under the Visa Waiver Programme, but this doesn’t apply to people with a criminal record (outside of minor traffic fines).
With a criminal record, the only way to know for sure if you can travel to the US is to apply for a visa. It’s a good idea to wait until you have got a visa before making any financial commitments to travel.
In the visa application process you will need to:
- pay the application fee
- complete a DS-160 form
- arrange an appointment at the US Consulate in Auckland, by using their online appointment calendar (you'll need to register first)
- attend an interview at the consulate. Bring:
- your appointment letter,
- your DS-160 confirmation,
- a recent passport photograph,
- all of your previous and current passports
- the payment receipt.
- if you have a criminal conviction, you will also need to bring a copy of your Criminal History Report. You can request this from the New Zealand Ministry of Justice website.
Even if your conviction makes you technically unable to travel to the US, you may be able to get a temporary waiver. You should speak about this with the Consular Officer at the time of the interview. Waiver processing can take a couple of weeks, so if you think you may require a waiver, apply early.
For further information, you can call the US Visa Information Service on 09 915 1081 or visit the travel.state.gov website. If you need help with filling in the application form, you can get it from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
Back to top
Could I be stopped from leaving New Zealand if I owe money to the courts?
If you have unpaid court fines or owe reparations payments, you may be stopped from leaving the country at the airport, or at the airport on your return. Remember that infringements such as parking tickets can become court fines if you don't pay them on time.
To avoid being stopped at the airport due to unpaid court fines, you can either pay your fines online or call 0800 PAYORSTAY (0800 729 677) and pay with your credit card.
You can read more about this on our Fines page.