Border exceptions for a small number of international students

The Government has announced a new border exception category that will allow 250 international PhD and postgraduate students to enter New Zealand.

Granting a border exception for a small number of international students to enter the country recognises the vital role international education will play in the recovery and rebuild of New Zealand and the need to continue the fight against COVID-19.

The decision will enable the return of select PhD and Masters students who were caught offshore this year, and recognises the commitment these international students have made to New Zealand.

Student eligibility and identification process

The 250 international PhD and postgraduate students must hold or have held a visa to study in New Zealand in 2020, but have been unable to enter New Zealand due to COVID-19. Priority will be given to students who:

  • are enrolled in PhD programmes
  • are enrolled in a qualification that involves practical components (for example, medicine, veterinary, engineering, laboratory sciences, agricultural research)
  • cannot progress or complete their study while offshore.

If the 250 places are not filled by PhD students in these priority categories, the focus is likely to move to level 9 Masters students in the same priority categories.

The Ministry of Education will work with Tertiary Education Organisations and Immigration New Zealand to identify and prioritise eligible students, and ensure a safe and considered process is developed for their entry. Eligible students will be nominated by their providers for consideration, and must be approved by Immigration New Zealand before travelling to New Zealand.

Students who think they may be eligible, and would like more information, should contact their providers. There is no application process for students.

COVID-19 considerations and isolation costs to students

All students entering New Zealand must comply with government advice and regulation relating to COVID-19, including the government Alert Level system. Government protocol currently includes a 14-day period in government managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities, and a series of COVID-19 tests on arrival.

Students will be required to pre-book a space in an MIQ facility prior to travel. Everyone entering New Zealand on a border exception, including international students, will have to pay charges for managed isolation.

When will they arrive?

The timing of the entry of these students into the country will depend on the availability of spaces in MIQ. This will be carefully managed so that the arrival of international students does not impact New Zealand citizens and residents returning home.

We hope that the first students will arrive in November 2020, and expect to welcome the majority of students in the New Year.

When will other students be allowed entry to NZ?

We acknowledge that this exception applies to a fraction of the number of students we normally welcome to the country. As such, some students, schools, private training organisations and other tertiary providers may be disappointed that they are not a part of this first border exception group. The Government will review further possible border exceptions, as and when it is safe to do so.

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