What travellers need to know about New Zealand's Customs and Excise Act

Airport Security Scans

01 October 2018

Disclaimer: This FAQ does not constitute immigration advice. Advice about the requirements to enter New Zealand and clear customs and immigration can be found on the New Zealand Customs Service website.

On Monday 1 October 2018, the New Zealand Customs and Excise Act of 2018 came into effect. You can read the relevant part of the Act HERE.

The Act empowers New Zealand Border Security staff to demand that travellers provide the password or passcode to their personal electronic devices and/or unlock them for inspection.

What electronic devices does this apply to?

  • Mobile (cell) phones
  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • Hard drives
  • Digital cameras

What can the border security staff demand?

They can insist that travellers either provide the password / passcode for their personal devices or unlock them for inspection.

Can they just stop me and look at my devices?

No. Visitors to New Zealand will not be randomly stopped and their devices checked.
The authorities must be able to prove reasonable cause to believe that the individual has engaged in, or will engage in criminal activity. 

According to the New Zealand Customs website: “Before an officer can search an e-device they must be able to point to facts or circumstances that provide a basis for suspecting that the person in possession of the device is involved in criminal offending

Detained passengers who are subject to this additional scrutiny will have everything fully explained to them.

What can they view?

Essentially anything including emails, documents and photos however the device can be left in ‘flight mode’.  They are not permitted to access anything stored in the Cloud.

If I am stopped and asked, do I have to provide the passcode/password?

Yes; or you can unlock the device yourself for inspection.

And if I refuse?

You will be subject to a fine of up to NZD $5,000 and/or you may be denied entry to New Zealand.

Why has this law been introduced?

The shift from paper to electronic based systems means that most prohibited documents and materials are now stored electronically. It is an additional measure to counter criminal activity.

Any further questions?

Please refer to the New Zealand Customs Service website here. This site will also provide information, so you can ensure you comply with New Zealand border and immigration laws.