We Kiwis are often said to have one of the most powerful passports in the world, but it also happens to be among the more expensive ones.
The New Zealand passport came in the bottom half of a recent ranking of the world’s best value passports’, with the price tag of USD 132 (NZ $ 199) which puts it behind 27 other countries from Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
The passport of the United Arab Emirates topped the list of travel website ParkSleepFly, which said that it not only offers the greatest freedom with visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 162 countries, but is also the cheapest at 50 dirhams (US $ 14 or NZ) $ 22).
The New Zealand passport provides the same access to 157 countries, but costs more than 10 times the price.
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The “value” of a passport was determined by looking at its position on the 2022 Passport Index, which ranks passports according to how many countries holders can visit without a visa or with a visa on arrival, and how much it costs.
Swedish, South Korean and Spanish passport holders also get a lot more for their money, according to the list, and pay US $ 42.47, US $ 43.68 and US $ 33.19 for visa-free or visa-free access to 159, 158 and 157 countries, respectively. So why does Kiwi pay so much?
Maria Robertson, Deputy Director of Service Delivery and Operations for the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), said that our small size and user payment system are largely responsible.
New Zealand has “some of the best quality machines in the world” for laser engraving and passport printing, but they are not cheap.
“They cost the same whether you issue 500,000 passports a year or five million. Which means that as a small country, the cost per unit for us can sometimes be higher than abroad. “
While some countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, use taxpayer funds to subsidize passports, New Zealand adult passports are issued on the basis of user fees. However, childcare, which costs $ 115, is subsidized.
“We index the child’s price at 50% of the adult’s price,” Robertson said. – It is a government decision. Why our government does this is often to make it affordable for families. “
Despite costing much more than a passport, Robertson said New Zealand’s little black book – which costs just over $ 19 a year over its 10-year lifespan – is “actually incredibly good value” given the number of land owners can visit either visa free or with visa guaranteed on arrival.
“Comparisons of passports around the world tell you only a very small part of the story because not all passports are the same. The New Zealand passport is accepted at (airport) SmartGates, it is very reliable, it is a hugely secure document … We invest a lot in ensuring that we protect people’s identities. “
The cost of applying for an adult passport rose by $ 8 in May from $ 191 to $ 199, while the cost of a child passport rose from $ 111 to $ 115. If you need a passport within three days, you pay $ 398 for an adult and $ 314 for a child.
Robertson said the increase of just over 3% – which amounts to an extra 10 cents a year for a 10-year passport – is “not much” when the rising costs of producing them are taken into account.
“Our organization is subject to the same cost pressures as all other households or organizations in the country. But we have taken around $ 100 million in costs from our business over the last seven or eight years as part of our commitment to keep prices down. “
Price increases are also needed to invest in new technology designed to protect people’s identities, she said.
“If you think of things like photography or digital tools, we put a lot of effort into ensuring that the technologies behind our passport processing are primarily ahead of people who may appear to be committing fraud or identity theft.”
Robertson noted that the New Zealand passport is significantly cheaper than the Australian passport, which costs A $ 308 (NZ $ 341).
The Australian passport came in 43rd place on the ParkSleepFly list, placing it among the bottom six for value.
The Liechtenstein passport was said to represent the worst value for money, costing $ 268 and giving visa-free and visa-on-arrival holders access to 152 countries. The Mexican passport ranks second from the bottom with a passport of USD 98 which gives the same access to 137 countries.
DIA is struggling to cope with an increase in passport applications since the border restrictions were eased.
“We’re really crushed – it’s a very busy time,” Robertson said. “But we are investing heavily, not only in keeping the price down, but also in making sure that we get our service standards back to within the 10 days
“We have employees who work huge hours and a lot of overtime to ensure that we continue to deliver a world-class book at a good price to people when they need it.”
The department has recruited 100 additional employees and 100 more are set to start in the coming weeks, she said.
“We put out more passes every day than what comes in, but our effort now is to make sure we speed it up. That’s our first priority as an organization.”