NZ Temporary Import Entry (TIE) document: Read this before getting one

Jim and Joy Carey have been cruising since the late ’70s. They are on their 15th year of a proposed 3-year cruise, going east-about around the world. Their 45’ Omega cutter, Kelaerin, is currently in New Zealand (for the second season).

Here they report on some issues they had extending their TIE (Temporary Import Entry) form which was filled in by the customs agent upon their arrival in Opua.

Published 6 years ago, updated 5 years ago

The TIE gives you a 2-year period in which you can have your vessel in New Zealand tax-free.   It also gives you a tax break on items you purchase for the vessel.   Many of the companies that deal primarily with boats, such as Burnsco and Cater Marine, will copy your TIE and have it on record as you continue to make purchases.   Other companies where you have work done will need you to provide them with a copy each time you make a purchase.    We have shown the TIE at companies that aren’t solely supporting marine improvements or repairs, like a plumbing or refrigeration business, and they will honour the TIE or, if they don’t want to deal with the administrative aspect of it will offer a trade discount on the product in lieu of the TIE tax free status.

One of the major home improvement stores in New Zealand, Mitre 10, honoured the TIE the first year we were here but this year have some administrative restrictions on it.    The person presenting the TIE has to have their name in the first box on the form, and present the original along with a passport to get the discount.    I was refused the discount this year when I presented the TIE  since only the skipper’s name (my spouse) was in the box.   The next time I went to the store I brought along Jim and the discount was applied, somewhat significant, I might add.

So be sure to have the customs agent put both of your names on the TIE document.

We returned to the states for a Christmas break this year and took the TIE and a letter from our marina stating we would be returning to the vessel (Kelaerin)  at the marina and intended to depart New Zealand on that vessel.    Before boarding our return flight to NZ, we were called to the United Airlines counter to explain why we did not have an onward ticket and we showed the TIE and letter and with a phone call made by the UA agent, we were cleared to board.

I had to return home again just a few weeks later for a family emergency and this time when I showed the TIE and letter to the check-in counter agent for the return to NZ flight, I was given a long lecture on how I needed an onward ticket out of NZ and that the TIE and letter were not enough to satisfy them.   Further, since my name was not in the box on the TIE, the agent denied that it was sufficient proof that I was going on the boat.  The marina letter did not look official enough to her, either.

Fortunately, I was checking in very early so there was no one in line behind me and I argued my case somewhat forcefully.    As it turned out, although Jim’s name was in the box, I was the one who had signed the TIE when we arrived, so that helped.    The agent made some calls to a supervisor who then made some calls to NZ authorities (I know not which ones) and 45 minutes later, the NZ authorities granted the permission for me to board.

So, the lesson is, when you arrive in New Zealand, be sure that the name(s) in the box reflect everyone connected with the vessel who will make purchases or need to fly out of and back into New Zealand.

Since my flight, several other cruisers who have returned to their boats had the same issue at the check-in counter in the USA.    So I called immigration to see if there was a special form we could use that would get us back to our boats and enter on a visa on arrival status.    She informed me that we had two choices:

(1)  Purchase a return fare or onward fare.

Air New Zealand informed me that you can purchase a FULLY refundable ticket by using their flex fare option. If you call and cancel the ticket once you arrive in New Zealand you get a full refund on the purchase.  I believe that United Airlines also has that option but there might be a non-refundable fee associated with that.

(2)  Apply for a general visa at

You log in, then select a visitor visa from the list and fill in the online application.   You must use one application per person and pay the fees.  You can scan your passport, you do not have to send it in, and you will get an electronic visa which you print out.  You can get a visa for up to 9 months, I believe and can have one of these only once during 18 months.  I was informed that the processing time is supposed to be 25 working days but that it can actually take up to 4 months.

This is probably not what you want to do if you plan to sail out of NZ to the islands and return back at the end of the season.  Some cruisers have gone back and forth with the cruising season for many years in a row entering on the visa waiver status (3 months stamped in on arrival with the option to extend to 6 months while in NZ).

It’s just the flying out and then back in that seems to be causing a bit of hassle at check-in counters.

Jim and Joy Carey 

SY Kelaerin

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