It is the responsibility of the passenger to secure the visa needed for travel to his or her destination. I, uh, didn’t take responsibility for looking up the visa requirements for Australia or New Zealand.
I’ve entered New Zealand twice before, no problem. And Australia likes Americans, right? And the airline would tell me if I need something, right?
No. Don’t be me, lest you like letting out low and loud f-bombs at airport check-in counter and potentially wasting cash. State Department has information on the visas needed for any country an American is going to; any country’s foreign ministry should also have this information online.
Otherwise, you’ll end up in these sorts of easily avoidable situations:
Visa Requirement to Australia
At Changi airport in Singapore, the Emirates check-in attendant asked me for a ETA number. WTF is that? I thought. Hashtag #WTFETA. It’s an electronic travel authority number, and every American needs one before he or she arrives in Australia.
Kiwi explained it as similar to ESTA numbers. Again, WTF is that? Hashtag #WTFESTA. It’s a number that travelers from visa waiver countries (including Australia and New Zealand) need in order to travel to the States for short-term visits.
Well, crap. With all due respect, airline, isn’t that something you needed when we booked the tickets and you took my passport number? Now, I’m having delusions of spending $300+ for a hotel room in Singapore if I can’t get this ETA number. (It doesn’t matter. I should have known this.)
Cue the chase for a wi-fi passcode to buy this ETA. Luckily, you can buy the ETA 24 hours a day online for $20 AUD. I got my ETA, gave it to the Emirates attendant. Check in: success.
Good ending to this story; don’t want to think about how screwed I may have been if it didn’t work out.
Visa requirement for New Zealand
While in Melbourne, Kiwi did online check-in for our trip to Auckland. Air New Zealand would not allow Tina to be checked in without proof of a ticket that I will eventually leave.
Here’s the issue: I planned to enter New Zealand on a tourist visa, which is the visa I will use until my work visa is processed. If you get a tourist visa, you’ll have to eventually leave after 90 days. Air New Zealand requires proof of onward journey in order to process the check-in.
I did apply for my work visa in DC, but it was returned on a signature technicality and there wasn’t enough time to apply again before leaving for Japan. So my plan was to resubmit the visa application after arriving in New Zealand.
After a call to Air New Zealand, the operator suggested buying a refundable ticket. So I have a refundable ticket to Sydney for March. I showed the flight number to the Air New Zealand attendant at the airport, and was able to check in.
The border official at Auckland airport did ask about my status, and we told her my situation. So currently I am legal; and Immigration New Zealand has my application for a second go-round. Hopefully the visa is approved by the end of January.
In short: Touring Australia? Get an ETA number before. Touring New Zealand? Have your outbound trip info ready.