Why pre-departure testing is necessary
The Government has been monitoring overseas developments and is concerned about high rates of infection and new variants of the virus and their potential to spread more rapidly. This additional measure reduces the risk of infected travellers on international flights infecting other travellers.
Who needs to get a pre-departure test
The Government now requires all travellers to New Zealand (except those from exempt locations) to have a COVID-19 test taken and a negative result returned within 72 hours of their first scheduled international flight.
- For travellers from the UK or the US, this came into effect at 11.59pm (NZT) on 15 January 2021.
- For travellers from other countries (except those from exempt locations) this will come into effect from 11.59pm (NZT) on Monday 25 January.
If you are planning to travel to New Zealand soon, it is a good idea to work out how you will be able to get your pre-departure test results within 72 hours of your departure.
Contact your airline for more information about flights and any pre-departure requirements.
Who does not need to get a pre-departure test
Some people are exempt from the pre-departure testing requirements.
Children under 2 years of age (24 months)
Children under 2 years of age (24 months) do not need to take a pre-departure test. Children over the age of 2 (24 months) will need evidence of a negative pre-departure test.
Travellers from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific islands
Locations included are Antarctica, Australia, the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna.
Travellers from locations where required pre-departure testing standard is not available
Locations included are Albania, Belize, Dominica, Kenya, Laos, Montenegro, Myanmar, Slovenia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
These locations are exempt as they are unable to provide pre-departure testing for travellers to the standard required by New Zealand.
Instead of a pre-departure test, these travellers will be required to get a certificate from a registered health professional in that country to confirm they have no COVID-19 symptoms, no more than 72 hours before they begin travel.
All arrivals from these locations are still required to complete 14 days in managed isolation. They are also subject to day 0/1 day, day 3 and day 12 testing during their stay
If you cannot take a test due to medical reasons
If you cannot take a test due to medical reasons, you will need to see a medical practitioner within 72 hours of your departure.
They will examine you for symptoms of COVID-19. If they are confident you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, they will need to provide you a medical certificate stating you cannot take a test due to medical reasons but do not have symptoms. This will be accepted as meeting the pre-departure testing requirements.
If you have had a COVID-19 vaccine
If you have received a COVID-19 vaccination you will still need to take a test.
If you return a positive result, you will need a medical certificate verifying that you are not infectious with COVID-19.
You should factor this into your timings, and check with your airlines on any regulations they may have in place regarding vaccinations.
Approved test results and certificates
Approved pre-departure test results
On 20 January, the Ministry of Health confirmed the following types of tests are acceptable by the New Zealand Director-General of Health:
- PCR / RT-PCR tests
- LAMP, or
- antigen tests (they may also be referred to as viral antigen tests or ‘point-of-care (POC) antigen tests’).
All tests must be processed by a laboratory recognised in the country of origin as authorised or accredited to conduct tests.
If you choose to take an at-home COVID-19 test, it must be processed by a laboratory recognised in the country of origin as authorised or accredited to conduct tests.
You should also check the requirements of other countries you are going to be transiting through. They may have requirements that are different to what New Zealand requires.
If you are unable to take a test for medical reasons you are required to provide a medical certificate.
Fit to Fly certificates
A Fit to Fly Certificate will be accepted as proof of pre-departure testing documentation if it is consistent with both the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Air Border) Order requirements and the subsequent Gazetted requirements regarding pre-departure testing. Acceptable Fit to Fly Certificates must contain the following six elements:
- Name of person tested
- Date of birth of person tested
- Name of the laboratory at which the COVID-19 test was processed
- Written confirmation from the laboratory of the result of a COVID-19 test
- Written confirmation of the time and date (local time) when the COVID-19 test was conducted
- Written confirmation of the type of test that was conducted
If your test result record does not provide this information, you may be prevented from boarding the aircraft. Please ensure this information will be provided to you by your testing facility when you get tested.
Find a testing location overseas
You can get tested at a range of airports, or from private laboratories.
We recommend you select a test provider carefully, to make sure you can get tested and get your results in time for your flight departure.
- Private providers for coronavirus testing (external link)
- Book a test at Heathrow Airport (external link)
Testing locations in other countries
You should contact the local health authority of the country that you are in for information about COVID-19 testing locations and booking arrangements (if available). Most health authorities advertise COVID-19 testing locations on their websites.
If you have previously recovered from COVID-19, but test positive
If you have a positive pre-departure test, but believe this is because of a historical COVID-19 infection, you need to see a medical practitioner who will examine you for current symptoms of COVID-19. If they are confident you do not currently have a COVID-19 infection, you will need them to provide a medical certificate with the date of your previous positive test (if applicable) and documentation stating that they consider you as no longer being infectious with COVID-19.
It may take time to get an appointment, so if you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 3 months, book your medical examination in advance of receiving your test results.
You should also check with your airlines about any regulations they may have in place regarding past COVID-19 infections.
If your negative test result does not arrive in time
If your negative test result does not arrive in time for your flight, you can reschedule your flight for no more than 24 hours later, even if this takes your test beyond the 72 hours before the scheduled time of your first flight.
Cancelled or delayed flights
If your flight is cancelled, the requirement would remain that you need to have had a test with a negative result no more than 72 hours before departure of your new flight.
If your flight is delayed by 24 hours or less and you have a negative result, you can still travel, even if it takes your test beyond the 72 hours before the scheduled departure time of your first flight.
You need to keep a record of your original scheduled flight for presenting to airline staff and Customs officers.
Costs for pre-departure testing
Travellers are responsible for testing costs.
Support for New Zealanders with disrupted travel plans
You should work with airlines to rebook your flights, and contact Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) about your placement.
Contact Managed Isolation and Quarantine about your placement
MIQ is working hard to accommodate travellers that might be impacted by the new testing requirements. If you are impacted by the pre-departure testing requirements you should work with your airline to rebook your flights and contact MIQ for information about your MIQ placement.
If you need consular assistance, contact the Embassy, High Commission or Consulate closest to you or email CONS@mfat.govt.nz
Presenting your negative test results to officials
You are responsible for bringing your test results or medical certificate to the airport and providing the required information. Without the information you may be denied boarding and be subject to an infringement fine.
Testing labs must be able to issue you a dated report for you to present. It should have:
- traveller’s name
- traveller’s date of birth
- date and time the test was conducted
- name of testing lab
- test type
- test result.
Either a hard copy or an electronic copy (email/text message) of your negative test result, or a Fit to Fly Certificate, will be accepted. A text message will be accepted only if it includes an image of the laboratory result form.
Hold on to all documents and treat your negative test results and Managed Isolation voucher with the same importance as your passport — you may be asked to show these as you transit and on arrival in New Zealand.
A day 0/1 test is still required upon arrival
Pre-departure testing is an additional measure to further reduce the risk of new COVID-19 cases in New Zealand, in line with our elimination strategy. It is complementary to existing testing requirements, such as day 0/1 testing, and does not duplicate them.
All travellers to New Zealand are required to undergo day 0/1 testing within 24 hours of arriving at a managed isolation and quarantine facility.
Travelling without a negative test result
If you’re asked for evidence of your negative COVID-19 test result or a medical certificate, and you cannot provide it, you may be denied boarding.
You will be asked to provide this information to a Customs officer when entering New Zealand.
All travellers arriving in New Zealand after 8 February 2021 without evidence of a negative approved test may incur an infringement offence fee or a fine not exceeding $1,000.
The pre-departure test is a measure to keep us all safe. Most airlines already require travellers to have a pre-departure test and provide evidence of a negative result before boarding a plane. Pre-departure tests are also a legal requirement for most countries that are transit hubs.
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