1,000 More International Students Will Return to New Zealand

The New Zealand government has approved a further extension of the border class exception for 1,000 international students, which will allow more students and their families to return from the middle of 2022 (you can find the official announcement here).

These 1,000 students will be the third cohort of international students allowed to return, following the 250 and first 1,000 student cohorts since last year. It will include 400 pilot trainees, 300 students at degree level and above, and 300 students at the sub-degree level.

Since the news was published on 22 October 2021, the Choose New Zealand team has contacted some of our government and institution partners. We can tell there are still lots of unknowns as the announcement is just recently out and is still in the consultation stage. While we wait for more details, below is the summary of what we know so far.


Who will be eligible?

Based on the public announcement, this time there are no special requirements on the qualification level, visa status or whether the student has studied in New Zealand. It seems open to most tertiary students at all levels.

This is the biggest difference compared to previous border exemptions for international students. The first cohort announced in October 2020 was only for 250 PhD students with valid New Zealand visas. The second cohort, announced in January 2021, was for 1,000 students, but only for students, degree level and above, “who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began”. 

Although this further extension is good news, there is no restriction this time on students' qualification levels, whether they had begun their study in New Zealand, or whether they still hold a valid visa. It also means there will be more students eligible than the possible quota each school has. The University of Auckland has mentioned on their website that there will be about “240 students across all eight New Zealand universities” and “less than 50 students” for the University of Auckland. 

Based on the information we have received so far, a possible breakdown number for each sector would be:

  • Degree level and above: 300 students
    • Universities: 240
    • Te Pūkenga (ITPs): 42
    • Private Institutions: 18
  • Sub degree: 300 students
    • English Language and Foundation courses: 100
    • Other sub-degree courses: 200
  • Pilot Training: 400 students

Possible guidelines for education providers to use to nominate students at degree level and above are:

  • Foreign Government sponsored students
  • Students who have previously been in New Zealand studying with a New Zealand provider, and who did not meet all the criteria for cohort 1 or cohort 2 (the 250 and first 1,000 student cohorts) or who were not nominated.
  • Students studying in a 'twinning'/pathway, or articulation programme with an institution that is in a partnership with a New Zealand provider.
  • Students who have begun study online with a New Zealand provider.
  • Students who have a confirmed New Zealand Government (MFAT) scholarship to study with a New Zealand provider.
  • Students studying multi-year courses.

We believe Foreign Government sponsored students will be prioritised.

In our earlier article and in student consultations, we recommended students start their study online so they may be prioritised when international students are allowed to return. From the guidelines above, we can see students who have done this may be prioritised. We believe it is not too late to start online study if you haven't already.


What are the other criteria?

To be able to eventually travel to New Zealand, you will need to meet all the travel-ready requirements. We have summarised the main requirements into 3 groups:


  • Show evidence you can meet the new fund requirement for living costs: NZ$1,667 per month, or NZ$20,000 per year;
  • Show evidence you can pay for managed isolation and quarantine (your education provider may choose to assist you on this, and details may change as New Zealand changes MIQ settings)
    • The current MIQ cost is:
      • $5,520 for the first or only person in a room;
      • $2,990 for a second adult in a room;
      • $1,610 for a child
      • children under 3 years old are not charged.
  • Your potential airfare

(The fund requirement will be most likely checked when you apply for your Student Visa. Our Licensed Immigration Advisers will be able to help you with visa applications)

COVID Vaccination:

  • If you are 17 years and older, you will need to have received a full course of any of the approved vaccines 14 days prior to arrival to New Zealand. Currently, New Zealand accepts most of the vaccines that have been approved by at least one country. You can find information on eligible vaccines at Vaccines – COVID19 Vaccine Tracker (trackvaccines.org).


  • Can travel to New Zealand between March to July 2022 via flight routes that easily link to New Zealand.
  • Can successfully book an MIQ space timed to your programme start date (MIQ places are not guaranteed and have been incredibly hard to book)

The full travel ready checklist can be found here.


What should you do next?

Education providers are still waiting for clear instructions from the government. Following this, nominations will be processed by each education provider and approved by The Ministry of Education.

What actions you should take will depend on which of the following stages you are at currently.

If you 

  • have started your NZ qualification in any form, and
  • intend to study in New Zealand, and 
  • can meet the criteria above,

then, you can notify your education provider and education agent now. 

(If you don't have an education agent or Licensed Immigration Adviser supporting you, please contact us.)


If you

  • have not started your NZ qualification, but
  • have received an offer for a future intake, and
  • intend to study in New Zealand, and 
  • can meet the criteria above,

then, you should notify your education provider and education agent now. Each education provider may have offered places to many students, but some students may have already changed their minds. You should contact your education provider so they know you are still interested in studying in New Zealand.

(If you don't have an education agent or Licensed Immigration Adviser supporting you, please contact us.)


If you

  • are applying for an NZ programme or haven't started the programme application, but
  • intend to study in New Zealand, and 
  • can meet the criteria above,

then, you should contact your preferred education provider to signal your interest to study in New Zealand in 2022. 

As you may be not sure which institute you wish to study with, or who may still have spaces left, you should consider using a professional education agency that represents all New Zealand universities and education providers, such as Choose New Zealand. An education agency can help you choose the right institutions and programmes, and start your applications with multiple providers. The agency should also have their own Licensed Immigration Advisers so they can support the visa applications for you and your families and navigate the complex process.


What is the timeline?

According to the Ministry of Education's website, the timeline is as below:

  • October 2021: Allocation of places and criteria for nominations from providers confirmed.
  • November 2021: Providers communicate with potential students
  • December 2021: Nominations open with the Ministry of Education
  • January 2022: Successful nominated students to begin the visa process
  • March 2022: Likely first student arrivals to New Zealand

Although the number of students allowed to return is relatively small, we believe it is another positive sign for the further reopening of the border to international students. With the increasing number of vaccinations in New Zealand and the move to the “Reconnecting New Zealanders to the World” plan, we believe more will come at a fast pace.


If you wish to hear more updates, please follow our Facebook page. Please feel free to contact us.

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