New Zealand will axe departure cards in November 2018

By David Flynn, August 27 2018
New Zealand will axe departure cards in November 2018

New Zealand will follow Australia's lead in scrapping departure cards for outbound travellers.

The white and orange paper slips will be phased out in November this year, the NZ Government announced over the weekend, although inbound passengers will still need to complete an arrival card.

The move will be especially welcomed by Australian business travellers who regularly dart across the Tasman. 

"Information captured by the departure cards is now mainly used for statistical purposes," noted NZ Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri.

"This also brings us closer to seamless travel between Australia and New Zealand for the benefit of Trans-Tasman travellers and businesses. Travellers will be able to travel departure card-free on both sides of the Tasman."

It's estimated that travellers leaving New Zealand fill out around 6.5 million departure cards each year, but Whaitiri says the government's Stats NZ arm "has developed an alternative way to produce migration and tourism statistics, based on actual movements rather than passengers' stated intentions on the departure cards."

Both the Australian and New Zealand governments have long talked up ways to remove 'barriers to movement' between both countries, and in 2009  plans were set up – but never enacted – to trial a clearance system similar to that used in Europe across European Union countries

There was also talk of trialling a cloud passport which would replace physical passports with digital passenger information and biometric data stored on government servers for access by border agencies.

Airlines have also pitched in, with Qantas CEO Alan Joyce last year renewing the push for 'seamless' trans-Tasman travel which would make flying to New Zealand no different to crossing into another Aussie state.

“We think that Australia-New Zealand should have as seamless access as possible" Joyce told a meeting of the Trans-Tasman Business Circle in Wellington.

Joyce affirmed that such an arrangement "would make it easier for business travellers and it would make tourism a lot easier," while admitting there would also be an upside for Qantas: New Zealand flights could depart from domestic rather than international airports.

"From an infrastructure perspective what it does is improve our efficiency dramatically because we can use domestic terminals."


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1247

This is great news.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 220

Next step is to treat these as domestic flights to be truly seamless.

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 178

If you're a Qantas Platinum frequent flyer be careful what you wish for, domestic departure for Qantas NZ flights would mean no access to the QF International First lounge, just the domestic business lounge.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Nov 2016

Total posts 48

I never want that to happen.... much prefer Tasman flying after a First Lounge visit!


28 Jul 2013

Total posts 29

Isn't this Back to the Future. I recall in the 70s when I first came here you did not need a passport to Aus - NZ flights

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jan 2015

Total posts 71

Now if only Oz can follow NZ and remove the requirement for you to hold on to your SmartGate ticket on arrival till quarantine!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 314

I never understood why they bothered with a Smartgate Ticket. Most other countries where i have visited that use similar smart gates, the passport is all you need. What a waste of "paper" and time, often having to hold onto another piece of useless paper.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2476

The tickets are required because the system prints an extra letter onto the ticket as you go through the SmartGate barrier, which tells the staff member manning the exit whether you’ve been flagged for any type of extra screening or there’s anything else to ask you about. That’s why they always ask for it after looking at your incoming passenger card (if you haven’t given them the ticket already), because otherwise the officer at passport control writes the appropriate letter or code onto your IPC.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 156

Interesting. A form of "profiling". I wonder how other nations, those who don't ask you to hang onto the ticket, go about recognizing and taking aside those who've been flagged?


13 Aug 2016

Total posts 67

And ditch the SmartGate kiosks you have to get the ticket from too! AKL has been using the newer version without needing an ticket for arrivals for over an year now (Same as what AU depatures now have).

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 156

I'm with steeleg and Mr Joyce - let's go back to the sensible arrangements of the 1970's.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

07 Sep 2012

Total posts 149

Won't happen during Obergruppenfuhrer Duttons reign in charge of 'Border Protection'

31 May 2017

Total posts 4

Great news!

Often at AKL there a bottle necks just to hand over the card you filled out 30 seconds easrlier!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 May 2017

Total posts 12

This is great news! It is always a time waster at AKL, particularly since the refurb as you spend more time waiting in line to hand these in than going through the smart gates.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Mar 2015

Total posts 96

You can blame little johnny Howard for the current trans Tasman travel chaos. Back in the late 80s/90s the highest level advice was to (re)create a single zone. It didn't get up because Howard was frightened of his perception of the "Maori problem" in Sydney.

May it be rectified asap.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on New Zealand will axe departure cards in November 2018