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In 2018, New Zealand created a law that people must pay 5000 NZD if travelers refuse to let immigration police inspect their mobile phones. But if a person refuses to allow inspection of a phone and does not have 5000 NZD, then will New Zealand immigration police deport them or imprison them?

  • It depends.Possibly they blocks you until you pay (so you should ask someone to pay for you. Your consulate could help finding money, but than you should pay to our country at your home). But you will have values on you (your phone, your watch, etc.). Traveling to NZ, with a smartphone and not having any money at home, to me it doesn't seem so plausible. – Giacomo Catenazzi Feb 18 at 13:38
  • Note that this fine is only applicable after the boarder agents have suspected you of smuggling something into or out of the country and you have been taken for further questioning/inspection and then refused to unlock your phone. Which BTW now gets confiscated! – Peter M Feb 18 at 13:41
  • Welcome to Travel.SE! I have edited your question to make it clearer. If any of my changes conflict with your original intent, please feel free to make further edits; there is an "edit" link directly below the question text. – Michael Seifert Feb 18 at 13:44
  • Your inability to pay a fine when traveling to NZ would possibly raise more red flags for the border agents, as they would expect you to have funds to travel, or at least a credit card to cover your travel expenses (known and unknown). – Midavalo Feb 18 at 17:33
  • @Midavalo 5000 $NZ is not small fine. I think many people can't pay it, reason only rich people can pay it for buy their privacy. – Châu Feb 19 at 6:59
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It is useful to see the Customs information page on Electronic device examinations. It is somewhat easier to read than the actual text of the law linked from your question.

If Customs suspects, under "reasonable suspicion", that a traveller is involved in criminal offending, then they may request access to search your phone. One of two things might happen here if you refuse:

  1. They may deny you access to enter New Zealand.
  2. They may, if they have "reasonable cause to believe" (a higher standard than "reasonable suspicion") that you are involved in criminal offending, detain your phone for forensic analysis.

There is no provision for imprisonment just for refusing a phone search. The worst that can happen is that you can be refused entry to New Zealand, and returned home at your expense. (This could happen for many other possible reasons, too.)

Of particular note is:

Penalty for not giving access

Only a New Zealand Court can impose a penalty of up to $5,000 on a traveller who does not give Customs access to an electronic device. This is only possible if Customs decides to prosecute the traveller.

There is no $5000 "instant fine" for denying access to search a phone. The fine would only be imposed after a court hearing.

  • Where traveler stay when wait for court hearing, prison? Courts often need several months for hearings and trials, longer than most travel visas. – Châu Feb 19 at 0:11
  • @Châu: I'm not sure of the exact procedure. If Customs has "reasonable cause to believe" that a traveller is involved in criminal offending, then they probably wouldn't allow the traveller to enter the country at all, and just send them back home. See Good character for temporary visas for more details. – Greg Hewgill Feb 19 at 0:20

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