Border exceptions for some returning international tertiary students

On 14 January 2021, the Government approved an exception class for 1,000 degree and post-graduate international students to return to New Zealand and continue their studies.

These students need to hold or have held a valid visa to study in 2020 and have studied in New Zealand in 2019 towards their current qualification and be returning to study with their current provider. 

The Government’s top priority continues to be the health, safety and wellbeing of all people in New Zealand. This border exception upholds this responsibility and is key to the delivering a part of the recovery plan for international education, which is the managed return of international students.

Granting entry to this group recognises the commitment these students have made to New Zealand and allows them to complete their studies, which they had committed to, enrolled in and paid for before the borders closed. New Zealand has made a commitment to deliver them a quality education experience, and this has been severely disrupted.

Alongside the social and cultural contributions this group will contribute, the annual economic value of 1,000 degree and post-graduate international students is estimated to be roughly $49 million in wider economic contribution to New Zealand’s economy, including approximately $27 million in tuition fees.

This exception provides the sector a further opportunity to welcome back international students and delivers on a part of the Government’s long-term recovery plan for the international education sector.

The Government will continue to work with the sector to consider how suitable models can be developed to bring in more students over time as and when it is safe to do so. Capacity at MIQ will remain a significant consideration in any further exceptions and International Education also needs to be considered alongside a number of competing priority sectors. Providers should take a conservative approach to planning for 2021 and prepare for a range of scenarios.

Eligibility criteria and process

To be eligible for this border exception students will need to

  • be studying towards a degree or post-graduate qualification
  • hold or have held a visa for 2020
  • have studied in New Zealand in 2019 or 2020 toward their current qualification and be returning to study with their current provider, and
  • provide evidence that they have access to $20,000 annually to meet living costs.

Students will need to undertake the border exception process with Immigration New Zealand which includes applying for permission to travel and applying for a new student visa.

Entry for these students will be phased and dependent on the availability of space in our managed isolation and quarantine facilities to ensure their arrival does not impact on the ability of New Zealander citizens and residents to return home.

All students entering New Zealand will comply with all Government advice and regulation relating to COVID-19. This includes a 14-day managed isolation period in Government facilities, payment of the isolation charges and mandatory COVID-19 testing. Students will need to book their space through the allocation system and are will be responsible for the standard charges for managed isolation. 

Students with questions about this border exception should contact their providers in the first instance.

Border exception for some returning international tertiary students – Minister's announcement(external link)

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