The border class exception will permit 400 pilot trainees, 300 students at degree level and above and a further 300 students at the sub-degree level to arrive, with education providers nominating students from October 2021.

Successful students will begin their visa process in January 2022, before the first students begin to land in New Zealand from March, the plans suggest.

Students taking part in the return plan will need to be fully vaccinated. Three vaccines are currently approved by New Zealand for use in the country – Pfizer/ BioNTech, Janssen and Oxford AstraZeneca. However, it will accept 23 vaccinations, including those approved by governments in China and India.

Brett Berquist, director of International at the University of Auckland wrote online that the new cohort announcement is “one part of a wider government response to reconnect New Zealanders to the world”.

“The University of Auckland will work with the government to determine a process for nominations and will connect with eligible students in the coming weeks. Students in this cohort will be able to enter NZ from March through the MIQ [Managed isolation and quarantine] system and are required to be fully vaccinated.”

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern revealed on October 22 a new traffic light system, which she said is designed to help manage outbreaks and cases and includes the use of vaccine certificates.

An exception class was granted for 1,000 international tertiary students in 2021, in addition to an earlier exception for 250 PhD and masters students

The University of Canterbury in Christchurch hosted 34 returning international students at a special welcoming event in August.

A spokesperson for Education New Zealand said the organisation welcomed the “important next step towards the recovery of New Zealand’s international education sector”.

“These border class exceptions maintain our connection to international education students and markets”

“These border class exceptions maintain our connection to international education students and markets, deliver a pipeline for local providers and underscore the government’s commitment to the international education sector,” the spokesperson told The PIE.

“The carefully managed return of students is part of the government’s Recovery Plan for International Education. All students who arrive in New Zealand will abide by all Covid-19 related health and safety requirements,” they noted, adding that further decisions on the arrival of students will be announced as part of the government’s overall Covid-19 response management.

“We expect the response to be positive, however it is too early to speculate on the numbers who may seek to apply. Students interested in applying for this border class exception should contact their preferred agent or education provider in the first instance,” they added.

“They will then be taken through the necessary processes required by their providers and students will need to undertake relevant immigration processes, including applying for a student visa, before travelling to New Zealand to commence their studies.”

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