While the number of New Zealand passports issued this year has dropped, requests from New Zealanders overseas and applying for their first passport have increased sharply.
Overall there was a 79 percent reduction in the number of passports issued this year, in line with changes to the border and overseas travel in the wake of Covid.
But there has been a sharp increase in the number of requests from overseas, with 48 percent issued to people overseas, up from 22 percent the year before.
The registrar-general of births, deaths and marriages, Jeff Montgomery, said that was because people wanted the certainty of being able to return to New Zealand.
“What we’ve seen is 48 percent of passports issued this year to New Zealanders have been for New Zealanders based overseas. A number of those will have returned home over recent times and others are applying for it just in case they need to come home in the future.”
The Department of Internal Affairs couriered 35 percent more adult first time passports to citizens outside New Zealand than in 2019. The United States led this in doubling the normal numbers of first time applications.
Montgomery said the applicants usually travelled on another nationality (e.g. an EU passport) but were New Zealand citizens and wanted the security of a New Zealand passport so they had the option of returning home.
Others were New Zealanders born overseas who were choosing to get a New Zealand passport for the first time.
Montgomery said that if you are a New Zealander you are freely able to return to New Zealand at any point as long as you can demonstrate that at the border that you are a New Zealander, and a passport is the best way to do that.
“We haven’t seen it to this scale before and that’s because New Zealanders overseas have been able to travel quite freely on their overseas passports, but with the changes around the borders with Covid, New Zealanders are feeling they are safer to have a New Zealand passport if they wish to travel back to New Zealand,” he said.
This year officials issued New Zealand passports to people in 150 countries, which is consistent with past years. But this year it sent passports to places it did not receive requests from in 2019 including Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Gibraltar, Guyana, Saint Barthelemy, St Maarten and Tunisia.
Officials are worried about the growing number of people with expired New Zealand passports and are encouraging them to renew them over the Christmas break.
Montgomery said over the past year, more than 300,000 New Zealanders had let their passport expire.
That corresponded with an 80 percent drop in the number of passports issued this year.
Montgomery said in the past these people would have renewed straight away, but failed to renew them because they were not planning to travel in the immediate future.
He said when there were border changes people would be able to begin travelling again and they should renew their passports as soon as they could.
“We encourage them to renew their expired passport as soon as possible and not wait until the last minute. And we’re encouraging New Zealanders to do that online, over the Christmas break, to get their passport renewed, so if the borders do open they’re ready to go and they’re not risking having an expired passport when it is time to travel,” he said.
Montgomery said a passport was valid for 10 years so renewing it and having it sitting in your drawer was better than rushing at the last minute along with a whole lot of other people and trying to renew when borders open and people can travel.
“We encourage all New Zealanders to always have a current passport if there’s any chance they are going to be travelling in the future,” he said.
Montgomery said applying for a last-minute passport cost considerably more and at the moment they were able to issue passports within 10 days, but if there was a significant increase in demand that may not be the case.
At sea no longer
This year no New Zealand passports were issued to people who considered themselves, “At Sea”.
Montgomery said the category applied to people working on cruise ships or living on other pleasure craft.
When their passports expired they would arrange for them to be delivered, at sea.
He said this year no New Zealanders received their passport to an at sea address, probably because they had headed to land with the uncertainty around Covid.
“It’s sent to them ‘at sea’, obviously there’s a bit more information on the address than that, but it’s been delivered to them sitting in a boat somewhere around the world,” he said.