Nearly 20 months after New Zealand closed its borders to non-residents, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
On Wednesday, New Zealand COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced that New Zealand will open its borders in steps in 2022. The first two steps only apply to fully vaccinated New Zealand citizens and resident visa holders, let's skip those and discuss the step that will affect students and other temporary visa applicants:
- Step 3 – opening to fully vaccinated foreign nationals (possibly staged by visa category), from 30 April onwards
Yes. 30 April is the golden date, but it won't work as a simple switch. There are a few questions you may have, so let's discuss.
Who will be allowed to come in first after 30 April?
Although we don't know for sure, based on what Minister Chris Hipkins mentioned before, and what Australia is doing, it is highly likely international students and skilled workers will be among the first groups to be allowed in.
Will there be any requirements for travellers?
Yes. Although the requirement for Managed Isolation and Quarantine will be removed for most travellers from January 2022, there will be still a mandatory period of self-isolation. Further requirements will be:
- a negative pre-departure test
- proof of being fully vaccinated
- a passenger declaration about travel history
- a day 0/1 test on arrival
- a requirement to self-isolate for seven days, and
- a final negative test before entering the community
What is the self-isolation requirement?
The general requirements for self-isolation will be provided in December.
For international students, we believe the government will require each institution to provide a solution to isolate students upon their arrival. Many universities, private institutions and schools submitted their proposals at the beginning of the pandemic wishing to self-isolate their students. It will be time for them to finally bring their proposals to life.
For other temporary visa holders, we are not sure at this point. We will have to wait for more details.
What vaccines are accepted by New Zealand?
Unlike many other countries, 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).
When can offshore applicants start applying for new visas?
We are waiting for more information release from the government.
Visa processing for most individuals who are outside New Zealand is still suspended until at least 6 February 2022. We guess (and hope) the government will not extend this moratorium again, and will instead start to process visas in preparation for the border reopening. It is possible they may even start before.
There are worries about how INZ will handle the pressure of processing the large volume of one-off 2021 Resident Visa applications, and then visas from all around the world, especially now that its overseas offices are permanently closed. Well, we can only hope they have good plans and systems in place.
What shall I do now?
Now it is time to start preparing for 2022.
When it comes to planning for your New Zealand study, there are two things to pay attention to now:
- If you are going to study for a tertiary qualification, most likely they will be able to start from the next July intake which is a common intake for most institutions. However, more options may exist as more and more qualifications offer multiple intakes in a year. This allows greater flexibility, especially useful if visa processing times take longer than expected. We would love to help you find suitable programmes and intakes.
- If you are going to study in a New Zealand school, you may be able to consider enrolling them from Term 2 which will start from 3 May, or to be on the safe side, from Term 3 which starts from 26 July. (Don't forget our sister company PSI's Te Atatu International Student Preparation Programme, which will be a great choice to help your students prepare for their high school studies from January 2022.)
- There are also other programmes that can start from any time, such as English programmes, or the NZTC's Graduate Diploma in Teaching.
- Funding is always one of the most important issues to consider when it comes to visa applications. Although there hasn't been any official change in living cost funds requirements for regular student visas, INZ has already been using NZ$20,000 per year of study as the requirement for the few categories of offshore students eligible for border exceptions in 2020-21. At this time, standard living cost funds requirements still stand at NZD$15,000, but our Licensed Immigration Adviser team would suggest anticipating this sum to increase to NZD$20,000 soon. We understand that COVID has disrupted many people's financial situations, there might be more complications in showing stable funds: our Licensed Immigration Adviser team is here to support the applicant throughout the process.
We are very excited to see there is finally a date we can plan everything around!
New Zealand has been one of the safest countries in the world throughout the pandemic, and with its beautiful nature, friendly people, strong economy, and migrant-friendly attitude, we believe it will go back to being a popular destination for all students and workers.
Choose New Zealand is excited to welcome you in 2022!
Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.