FAQs for signatories - students on commercial or repatriation flights
This section was updated on Wednesday 15 April at 4.30pm
Students must meet the following public health criteria to be able to travel home, and will be questioned before travelling:
- Are not diagnosed with COVID-19 (or have been declared as recovered by a medical doctor)
- Do not have symptoms consistent with COVID-19
- Are not awaiting results for COVID19 testing
- Are not a close contact of a suspected/probable/confirmed case of COVID-19, and,
- Have not travelled internationally within the last 14 days.
- Pastoral care and insurance
- Travel and flights
- Enrolment status and visas
- Information that signatories must provide to students
- Special considerations for students under 18
Are signatories still responsible for ensuring all usual Code of Practice pastoral care requirements are met?
Signatories retain responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of their international students and the requirements in the Code of Practice still apply.
You will be responsible for communicating with students and their parents to ensure that they are able to make informed decisions about repatriation.
For students under 18, you must ensure that appropriate arrangements are made for supervision, accommodation and transfer of care:
What happens to the student’s insurance? How does repatriation affect this?
Students and signatories need to contact the insurance provider for more information.
The Code requires signatories to ensure “as far as practicable” that students have appropriate insurance, including for travel within and from NZ.
If the insurance provider declines cover for a repatriation flight, it’s up to the student and/or parents to make the decision and ensure risks are mitigated and costs will be covered if needed.
Signatories need to document all steps taken to try to ensure appropriate insurance.
Who will be responsible for any costs that arise?
All costs are the responsibility of the student (or their natural parents). Signatories who are incurring costs on the student’s behalf (for example, booking domestic flights or airport transfers) should get prior agreement for any reimbursements.
What domestic travel is allowed, in order to connect with international flights?
In order to travel to an international airport you can use the following domestic transport options:
- Self-drive (including a rental car)
- Be driven by a member of your current household group
- Use a taxi or ride-sharing service
- Take a chartered vehicle service
- Use land-based public transport.
You must travel via the most direct route, and comply with physical distancing requirements throughout your journey.
For more information on domestic travel requirements, refer to the covid19.govt.nz website:
What about domestic flights to connect to an international flight?
Limited domestic flights will be available from Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch and Dunedin, to reach an international departure from Auckland or Christchurch.
If you are taking a domestic flight, you must have a ticket booked for an international flight leaving Auckland or Christchurch scheduled to depart no more than 24 hours from the scheduled departure time of your connecting domestic flight.
For more information about flights for foreign nationals, refer to the covid19.govt.nz website:
Is there a difference in approach to traveling for commercial flights and repatriation flights?
No. In both cases, students need to have a confirmed ticket to be able to travel to the airport, and all the same pastoral care aspects need to be considered.
What happens if a student wishes to leave but has nobody to take them to the airport?
The signatory should assist the student to arrange alternative transport, for example public transport, or a taxi or shuttle service.
If the student is on a repatriation flight, the Embassy may be able to assist.
What happens if a student becomes unwell and is unable to board the flight?
If a student fails to meet the necessary health criteria they will not be able to board their international flight and may have to go into quarantine or managed self-isolation.
This process will be led by health authorities, with the involvement of others as appropriate.
What happens if students get stuck in a transit hub/airport?
Sometimes international travel connections are missed. If a student misses an international connection, they need to work with the airline, their Embassy and their natural parents to ensure they get home safely.
If the airlines are operation the Unaccompanied Minors will be chaperoned by the airline.
Signatories should encourage students to ensure that they have access to emergency funds for their travel home (e.g. to make a phone call if needed).
What if students need accommodation before a flight?
Students who are 18 and over are responsible for arranging their own accommodation, should it be needed before a flight. Signatories can assist with information and advice as required.
The Temporary Accommodation Service can assist students to find appropriate accommodation if necessary:
If a student returns home, what is the status of their enrolment?
Signatories need to inform students of the impact that repatriation will have on their enrolment. This should also include information about course continuation, deferral options, and any refunds for tuition or other fees.
What happens to international student visas once they have repatriated? What if they wish to return after the pandemic? Will there be an additional cost?
Students should contact Immigration New Zealand to discuss their situation.
What is the impact of a deferral of studies on the likely completion timeframe?
Signatories should discuss study options with students, and ensure that students are fully informed of the impact of a deferral on their completion timeframe.
Is there the option for a student to continue studying offshore/online from their home country?
Signatories should discuss options for students to continue studying offshore/online once home. This will depend on the provider and course. Students (and parents, as appropriate) should have all the information required to make an informed decision.
What relevant information must signatories provide to students (and parents, if appropriate) in relation to repatriation?
Signatories should ensure that students and parents have access to information to make an informed decision about pastoral care, repatriation, and the impact this will have on the student’s study.
This should include, but is not limited to:
- Information on the current situation in New Zealand (for example, the link to the COVID-19 website, Ministry of Health updates etc)
- Information on current education and pastoral care arrangements, and ongoing supports available
- Information on the support the signatory can give to repatriation arrangements (for example, intended approach to transport, supervision, accommodation, transfer of care and communication arrangements, including the possibility that plans may change)
- Information on insurance coverage (where the insurance was arranged by the signatory)
- Information on enrolment continuation / deferral processes
- Information on any refund provisions
- Information on who to contact for further information (e.g. the relevant Embassy, Immigration New Zealand for visa queries).
Transfer of Care Plan and Parental Approval for under 18s
Does the signatory need express written permission from parents in order to begin the repatriation process?
Yes. This is a significant decision affecting the student. NO student should be moved without express permission from parents. This can be by email, or a phone call followed by email confirmation.
Who is responsible for the transfer of care plan? How is it communicated?
Signatories need to work with the natural parents to establish a transfer of care plan, as you usually would.
In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and New Zealand’s Alert Level 4 conditions, parents need to agree in writing to the details of transfer of care plan (in line with Clause 16E in the Code), rather than simply being notified. This can be by email, or a phone call followed by email confirmation.
The plan must set out:
- flight bookings
- arrangements for getting the student to the international airport (must be consistent with domestic travel requirements)
- who is responsible for the pastoral care of the student and at what stage.
The transfer of care plan may look different to usual arrangements. For example, it may include information provided by the Embassy / High Commission organising the repatriation flight, and natural parents may agree that an Embassy official assists with transit arrangements in Auckland or Christchurch if the student has to take a domestic flight.
The plan needs to be communicated with anyone else involved as appropriate (for example, residential caregivers, Embassy officials).
As usual, natural parents are responsible for arrangements in the home country (including meeting the student at the airport, and any self-isolation arrangements). Signatories should keep a dated, written record of all communication.
What if parents want to delegate some responsibility, for example to airline or Embassy officials?
Any information on who is involved in the transfer of a student’s care should be clearly communicated between the signatory and the student’s parents, and the plan agreed in writing.
Some younger students may travel as Unaccompanied Minors if the airline is operating this system. The signatory would then transfer care of the student to the airline, at the airport.
In some situations it may be appropriate for others to be involved, for example Embassy officials if a student is transiting from a domestic to international flight. This is similar to if parents request for a student to be met by a relative / family friend. The signatory needs to be clear that this is the parent’s decision, and that they therefore have parental responsibility.
How does a school and/or homestay receive travel authority as an essential service?
Travel for repatriation flights has been added to the essential travel list, so no individual approval is required. This includes the return trip, if students are being driven to the airport. Travel must meet the domestic travel requirements above.
How can the student get to the airport?
Students under 18 must be supervised by an adult who has been safety checked, or an adult approved by the parents, at all times. Wherever possible, the person driving them to the airport/transport hub should be a member of their “bubble” (providing that person is not considered at high risk, e.g. over 70).
Where this is not possible, signatories should help students arrange alternative approved transport which meets the above requirements (for example, a school minivan or a shuttle service). If using shuttles or other shared transport (eg a school minivan), you may transport students from more than one “bubble”, so long as you keep numbers to an absolute minimum and the passengers and driver are reasonably spaced (wherever possible, this should be 2 metres apart for journeys of more than 15 minutes).
If you have more than several students travelling to the same flight, it may be better to consider using a larger (mini)bus to ensure reasonable distancing.
You must also follow the covid-19 personal hygiene and physical distancing guidelines:
Taxi and ride sharing services – covid19.govt.nz (external link)
All transport arrangements need agreement from the student’s parents.
What if students need accommodation prior to a flight?
For students under 18, the signatory should work with the natural parents to ensure that appropriate accommodation is arranged.
Accommodation may also be required for the person taking the student to the airport.
Students under 18 must be supervised by an adult who has been safety checked, or an adult approved by the parents, at all times. Responsibility for any costs incurred should be agreed in advance.
The Temporary Accommodation Service can assist with appropriate accommodation for students and supervisors if necessary:
At the airport
Can the person providing transport enter the airport with the student?
The person accompanying the minor should explain the need to do accompany the student through check in.
The person taking the student to the airport should wait until the student has confirmed that they have passed the health check, checked in for their flight, and gone air-side.
What happens if a student needs to transfer from a domestic to an international flight?
Some students may be able to use the airline’s Unaccompanied Minor programme, if available.
Other young people can access the airline’s Meet and Assist Young Person Travelling Alone (MAAS YP) to help with any domestic to international transfer.
This should be requested at the time of booking, and reiterated at the domestic check-in. This is an assistance service only (the airline does not have any legal obligation, unlike the Unaccompanied Minor service). Further information on this is available from the airline.
If you need some support for students to be met off domestic flights at Auckland International Airport, and/or support with accommodation, chaperoning, domestic to international transfers, then please contact:
Debbie McGregor, email firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile: 027 415 0425
Please include the following information in your email:
- Student name:
- Student mobile number:
- School key contact name:
- School key contact mobile:
- Request for support (chaperoning/accommodation/transfers – please specify)
What happens if a student is dropped at the airport but for some reason cannot board the plane?
If a student is unable to board their international flight as scheduled, assuming this is for a non-health related reason, then signatories are responsible for supporting them appropriately until they are able to travel, including securing emergency accommodation if this is necessary.
What happens if a student becomes unwell and is unable to board the flight?
If a student fails to meet the necessary health criteria they will not be able to board their international flight and may have to go into quarantine or managed self-isolation. This process will be led by health authorities, with the involvement of others as appropriate.
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