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14 January 2021

New border exception to allow 1000 international students to re-enter New Zealand

Expanding on the earlier border exception announced in October 2020 which allowed up to 250 PhD and Master’s students to enter New Zealand to complete their study, the Government has today approved a further border exception class for returning tertiary students. This time, the scope of the exception is much wider and will allow up to 1000 bachelor’s and postgraduate students who have already begun studying in New Zealand but were caught offshore when the border closed in March 2020, to return to New Zealand over the course of this year and resume studying here.


To be eligible for an exception under this category, students must:

  • hold, or have held a visa to study in 2020;
  • be studying towards a Bachelor’s degree or higher qualification;
  • have studied in New Zealand in 2019 or 2020 toward their current qualification;
  • be returning to study with their current provider; and
  • need to be in New Zealand in order to complete their study.

Of those who meet the above criteria, first priority will be given to those who are close to graduation.


This is not limited to university students; students enrolled at institutes of technology and polytechnics, wānanga or private training establishments may also apply to re-enter under this category. Partners and children of eligible students may also be included on these applications, provided they meet the current immigration requirements for dependents of students to be granted visas.


To apply under this category, candidates must submit an application for a new student visa via the usual channel. However while international students are normally required to show that they have at least $15,000 per annum in funds to meet their living expenses for the duration of their study, applicants under this exception class will need to show that they hold at least $20,000 per annum, along with paying the standard charges for managed isolation. The Government cites employment pressures as a result of COVID-19 and increased living costs as the basis for the increase in funds required.


Eligible students will be able to return to New Zealand under this category in stages over the next year, beginning with a cohort of 300 in April 2021; the remainder will be allowed to return throughout the year as managed isolation capacity allows, as these returnees will be subject to the same quarantine requirements as all other people entering New Zealand. At this stage no specific details have been provided as to when the remaining 700 students under this category will be able to re-enter.


As with the previous border exception for international students, the Ministry of Education will again work with education providers to identify students who will be eligible for this exception. As such, student visa holders should first contact their education provider to discuss whether they will be able to re-enter under this category. For any other queries about studying or working in New Zealand, or about the process of applying for entry permission or a visa, contact us.