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I am traveling to New Zealand in the spring, and I have a question regarding alcohol consumption. The legal drinking age in the United States is 21, yet it is 18 in New Zealand. I am over the age of 18 so I plan on drinking. However, I am assuming my American ID is not going to work to prove my age, so will I use my passport? Asking any students who have studied abroad or just anyone who knows!

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    However, I am assuming my American ID is not going to work to prove my age, so will I use my passport. Depends on which barman or bouncer etc. – cHiEf Immigration vIoLaTer Nov 4 '18 at 23:53
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    Anecdotally, I have used my UK driving license as proof of age to buy alcohol many times in New Zealand. Legally, it shouldn't be accepted, but most of the time it has been accepted anyway. I am 30 though, so maybe that helps. – Nick Edwards Nov 5 '18 at 1:00
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    Why would you assume that an American ID would not be accepted? It may be the case, just wondering why you would assume this, as foreign IDs always seem to work from my experience, so because of that I would assume the inverse. – ESR Nov 6 '18 at 3:05
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    Your passport is almost without exception a universally valid identification document in any country of the world. That is its purpose - it's the hail mary of identity documents. – J... Nov 6 '18 at 15:38
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    Have you tried a portable carbon dating kit? – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 7 '18 at 10:53
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You can definitely use your passport to prove your age. It's used by visitors all the time here in NZ, so it won't be unusual, and your bartender will certainly have seen a passport before.

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    Would a US passport card also be accepted in NZ? While it can't be used for international air travel, it's a convenient second id when abroad. – Giorgio Nov 5 '18 at 3:17
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    @Giorgio - I wouldn't count on it, a passport card is not commonly seen even in the USA, I've had my passport card rejected as ID at a bar in the USA because they'd never seen one before. Fortunately my wife was on the way and I had her bring my passport, which they accepted. (I lost my drivers license, so was stuck using my passport until I got a replacement DL) – Johnny Nov 5 '18 at 3:28
  • @Giorgio, surely, if you've travelled from the USA to NZ, you must have used a passport. Why not just use that? – Doctor Jones Nov 6 '18 at 14:12
  • @DoctorJones yes, but some have both and like to use the card, as it is smaller, handier, the size of a driving license or credit card, and safer when, e.g., doing a pub crawl. – Giorgio Nov 6 '18 at 14:17
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    @Giorgo I read pub brawl into this - in which cse safety may indeed also be a concern :) – Hagen von Eitzen Nov 6 '18 at 15:25
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There are 3 forms of accepted ID. An NZ drivers license, any current passport and a HANZ18+ card. You can find a form for an 18+ card here:

https://www.alcohol.org.nz/alcohol-management-laws/nz-alcohol-laws/age-the-law/approved-id

It costs $50 but could be a good idea if you're planning on being out often because taking your passport around with you while drinking could result in a lost passport.

Supermarkets are typically very strict with these rules, but bars and clubs might be more lenient.

I live in NZ.

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    One of the requirements to get a HANZ18+ card is proof of current New Zealand address. I think it would be difficult for a tourist to produce the requirement current address documentation. – Greg Hewgill Nov 5 '18 at 3:03
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    This is the correct answer: by correctly listing the three legally accepted forms of documentation, it directly addresses both parts of the OP's question: (1) yes, a US passport will be accepted, and (2) other abitrary forms of US ID should not be. – Michael MacAskill Nov 5 '18 at 3:20
  • Wouldnt they accept an american drivers license? NZ has many tourists. Particularly in places like Aukland, Queenstown, etc. – vikingsteve Nov 7 '18 at 8:41
  • I used to work at a supermarket, who are arguable the most strict on ID’s, and saw foreign drivers licenses turned down often. You would have a decent chance of it being accepted if you went to a bar or liquor store, but you would have to be prepared to be declined also, as they are well within their rights to do so. – LC. Nov 9 '18 at 22:39
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Although I don't drink, I have used US-issued ID documents in New Zealand for other purposes. Based on my experience, a passport is always fine as ID, whereas an ID card (especially one that isn't a driver's license) is sometimes trickier. I've also purchased alcohol for cooking purposes, although I don't recall which ID I used (which probably means I used a state ID successfully, rather than a passport).

With my state ID card, I did encounter two difficulties:

  • In some cases, mostly when forms were involved, the difference between "driver's license" and "state ID" mattered a LOT. A driver's license is "foreign driver's license", so easy to put on forms; a state ID isn't a "foreign driver's license", and it isn't a "national ID", so it ended up being rejected (or required a manager to come over and assist).
  • The American-style "month/day/year" birthdate ordering, used on ID cards but not passports, is unfamiliar to New Zealanders. If that would make the difference between "I'm 18!" and "I'm, uh, still 17", this might be a problem for you.

With a passport, on the other hand, nobody has ever complained or had difficulty with it (although it IS a bit bulky in one's pocket).

If you want to definitely have your ID accepted, therefore, I'd suggest the passport. If you're okay with possibly being turned away, you might be able to try with the ID card.

  • Last I recall there were signs saying that you needed legally valid ID or look 25. If you show not legally recognized ID that shows you to be 30 that might convince them that you look 25. Once I used foreign ID that showed I was 24.5, and they accepted that I might be a 24yo that looks 25. IIRC at student bars you really needed a passport or local ID. – gmatht Nov 6 '18 at 3:53
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Not a New Zealander but, as a seasoned traveller, yes you want to use your passport.

I have on occasion completely forgotten that my UK driving licence only may be accepted on such occasions, particularly when in the US. With my passport safely stowed in my hotel room's safe, I've found myself relying on the licence that lives in my wallet, with only mixed success. When I'm refused service I appreciate why that is and chastise myself for forgetting to bring my passport out with me once again. When travelling, I always assume this experience will be the same or similar, no matter what country I'm visiting.

To be fair, if you're just grabbing an unplanned quick pint during a day otherwise filled with sightseeing, you may not want to take your passport out with you, in which case you'll have to make do with orange juice. :)

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Sorry it's been pointed out to me that I'm not up to date; they changed to a permitted list with the new governing act in 2012, use your passport.

While Luke is correct that the three most valid forms of ID here in NZ are NZ Drivers License, a Passport (current or in some cases recently expired), and the HANZ18+ Card. The minimum legal requirements for age ID can however be covered by other documents and are as follows:

  • ID needs a photo that is recognisably the subject.

and

  • a serial number that can be checked against an issuer's database.

and

  • the subject's date of birth.

Your State ID may fulfill these requirements or not, there are a number of high schools whose student IDs meet those requirements and I had classmates who used their school IDs to purchase alcohol senior year.

However all of that is moot if the barkeeper or bouncer decides they don't want to serve you, because they don't trust the ID you have presented or for any other reason at all. I'd strongly suggest sticking with the passport as it should minimise cause for confusion or argument, and always be polite to the bar staff.

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    Is NZ the kind of country where IDs are always checked? In Canada about half of bars never card me despite being in my 20s and looking young. The other half always accepted my Czech driving license even though it doesn't even have English text. – JonathanReez Nov 5 '18 at 18:18
  • @JonathanReez NZ is the sort of country where people wishing to retain their liquor licence behave responsibly and follow the requirements which if not observed may attract unwelcome attention from enforcement authorities. Canada used to be similar but in recent years many there seen to have become insane :-). [I live in NZ]. – Russell McMahon Nov 6 '18 at 10:16
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    @JonathanReez In my experience (I'm 26), supermarkets usually ask you, liquor stores and bars don't tend to as much. It depends on the place, your age, and how old you look. – Programmdude Nov 7 '18 at 3:55
  • @Programmdude Especially that last one, I've not been carded since my beard started putting 10-15 years on my apparent age. – Ash Nov 7 '18 at 10:14
  • They're not "the three most valid" forms of ID for buying alcohol, they're legally the three only valid forms. Minimum requirements are exactly that it must be one of those prescribed types. Leaving the statement that they should stick to passport until last, is putting misinformation first and leaving sensible advice until it's likely to be ignored. – Nij Nov 8 '18 at 6:32
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I've travelled to New Zealand (8 years ago) and used my UK drivers license as ID for purchasing alcohol (and in the 3 weeks I was there I only got asked the once). But as others have said Passport will also always be accepted as proof of age ID.

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