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New Zealand struggles with backlog of 36,000 international tourists visa applications

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New Zealand is struggling under a backlog of 36,000 international tourist visa applications, leaving some holidaymakers unable to take long-awaited trips.

The country’s application is currently advising travellers from non-visa waiver countries not to book holidays until their visa is approved.

“Due to the large number of applications received since 1 August, processing times are longer than expected,” reads a message.

New Zealand received more than 396,000 applications, including NZeTAs from visa-waiver countries, between 1 August and 4 October this year, according to Immigration New Zealand general manager Richard Owen.

He told the NZ Herald: “The volume of visitor visa applications we are receiving is much higher than we forecast,” adding that, although 90 per cent of applications have been processed, there remains a backlog of around 36,000 still to get through.

“We are working incredibly hard to process all visa applications as quickly as possible and doing our best to balance the need to get visitors into the country with the need to get workers in – both of which we acknowledge are critical to New Zealand and our economy at the moment,” said Mr Owen.

The department is currently “working towards” a turn-around time of 20 days for tourist visa applications.

However, processing times for NZeTAs for countries with a visa waiver agreement remain unaffected by the backlog, taking no more than 72 hours.

UK travellers are eligible for the NZeTA, which allows entry to New Zealand as a visitor for up to six months. The NZeTA costs NZD $9 if applying via the dedicated mobile app, or NZD $12 if completed online. Once issued, the it is valid for up to two years.

National’s tourism spokesperson Todd McClay said the processing delays were adversely impacting the New Zealand tourism industry.

He said: “The New Zealand Government is telling potential high-spending visitors to not book travel until their visa has been approved. It is tantamount to telling potential tourists to go to Australia instead.”

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