Great Experience with NZeTA App

Many countries now require visitors from supposed-to-be visa-free countries to apply for ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) or similar scheme before entering the country.

ETA is easier to obtain as compared to the visa.  The former requires only online submission and the results would be made available within a short time, a few days max. However, filling up the form for the ETA – especially for the USA – may be quite daunting.  It is not difficult but simply time consuming.

Until I applied for ETA for New Zealand, NZeTA.  From 1 October 2019 New Zealand will require visitors from visa-free countries to obtain NZeTA prior to the travel.

The New Zealand Immigration provided two options to apply NZeTA: through web or mobile app.  Interestingly, it costs NZD 3 less to apply using the app as compared to the web.  Out of curiosity I chose to apply using the app.

Searching the on Google App Store (well, I am an Android user) app was easy.  The installation was a breeze without any issues.

The application process was surprisingly easy.  Upon opening the app, I was prompted with the welcome page.

Followed by acknowledgement for the usual privacy and term and use.

The next step caught me a bit off guard. It prompted me to take a picture of the passport.

However, rather than taking the picture of the whole passport, the app actually scanned the Machine-Readable Zone (MRZ) area. The screen would show a blue bar where you should align the MRZ. As a result, capturing the MRZ was a breeze!

The next step was quite interesting, it asked me to do selfie!

It took me a few attempts to do the selfie. Once completed, the app displayed the information captured from the MRZ, with the picture on the top-left corner. It asked me to confirm the details.

After that, the app asked a series of questions, starting from whether I want to stay in NZ or coming as a transit passenger, whether I am an Australian permanent resident, and so on. Interestingly, the ‘expected’ answer is always highlighted.

After answering all the questions, I proceeded to pay the ETA and the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL). The payment was done using credit card and it was a fuzz free. I did not use the feature to take picture of the credit card – which I believe would help me to key-in the credit card details; I chose to key-in the card details myself. The only missing is there was no 2 FA for the credit card transaction.

And that’s it! The whole process was completed in less than 10 minutes, all from within the app itself. It was a great experience!

The app made it easy for anyone who applied for NZeTA. There was no need to upload any additional documents or pictures. The app also reduces or even eliminates error by using MRZ to fill up the details; no need for the applicant to type all the details manually.

The selfie is also interesting. There is no need for the applicant to rush to to instant photo booth or photo studio to take the picture, which would delay the whole application process.

The app practically eliminates all frictions in applying the NZeTA. It is a great innovation from The New Zealand Immigration. As a citizen, friction-less transactions such as what the app offered is the one I am looking for when transacting with the Government; and as a public servant such app is the yardstick for a good Government eServices.

Cold Call

In my work, it is a ‘routine’ for me to receive cold calls from some companies.  The callers either tried to promote their companies or services, did a survey or wanted to send a ‘free’ white paper. Companies could easily find out about my DID number because my number (and so are all my colleagues in the company) is published on the Internet.

Such calls are really annoying.  Firstly, unlike junk SMS or junk emails/mails, you cannot simply ignore incoming calls.  Even though the calls are from the numbers you don’t know, you don’t know what’s the call about until you pick up the call and listen to what the caller says. It can be disruptive, especially when you are in the middle of work that requires concentration.

I always asked the caller to email me the information and then end the call.  I don’t mind to give them my email address, I could simply read those materials anytime or quickly delete them if I don’t find it useful. If I find the materials or services are relevant to me, I would call or email the company for more information.

However, most of callers did not want to stop at email address.  They continued asking questions regarding the IT in my company.  The main issue with such calls is I have no way to verify the caller.  I am acutely aware about social engineering. The caller may be claiming from one company, but what he wanted is to gain insight on my IT infrastructure; such insight may be useful for them to penetrate the IT system.

It does not help that I noticed number of such calls surged after I changed portfolio from Application to Infrastructure.  Every day, without fail, I received at least one such cold call.

I prefer to be safe than sorry. I usually asked the caller to drop me email for the questions.  If they insisted to continue with questions over the phone, I simply hung up.

But sometimes the callers can be quite daring.  One day I received a call claiming that my CIO (Chief Information Officer) had a meeting with his company and my CIO asked him to call me.  What puzzled me that the company has been a long vendor with us and my ICO and I just met with their management a week earlier.  He asked some questions regarding our infrastructure and he became impatient when I declined to give any information.  He even threatened me that he would let my CIO knows that I was not cooperative.

A few minutes later my colleague across the table received the call and from his replies, I could deduce he received similar calls and I quickly gave me the notes that the call should be terminated. Everybody in the division was alerted and true enough almost everyone received such call.

It did not stop there, one month later I received similar call, this time claiming that my Assistant Managing Director (AMD) was the one who asked him to call me.  Same pattern, same alert ringing across the division.  I joked that at that rate soon the caller would claim that my MD and later chairman asked him to call us.  It did not happen, though.