Approved students will be allowed to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021 as part of the government’s recovery plan for international education.

“This border exception delivers on a part of the recovery plan for international education”

“The students will return to New Zealand in phases, beginning with a cohort of 300 that will be able to return from April, with the remaining students returning throughout the year as managed isolation and quarantine availability allows,” the country’s education minister Chris Hipkins said.

“This border exception delivers on a part of the recovery plan for international education. It underscores the government’s commitment to the international education sector, which is important in the country’s long-term economic recovery from Covid-19.”

He was quick to point out the return of these students will not affect the ability of New Zealand residents overseas to come home, which has previously caused tension.

New Zealand study providers will identify and nominate eligible students who meet the criteria; students will not need to apply for places.

To be eligible, students must hold, or have held a visa to study in 2020, have studied in New Zealand in 2019 or 2020 toward their current qualification (which must be a bachelor degree qualification or higher), be returning to study with their current provider, and need to be in-country to complete their study.

Priority will be given to students who are closest to graduation.

Hipkins said students will have to go through a mandatory isolation and quarantine period of a minimum 14 days on arrival, which he previously suggested as a possibility in May 2020.

“They will need to book their space through the allocation system and will be billed the standard charges for managed isolation,” he said.

According to ministry of health statistics, there were no new cases of the virus in the community on January 13, but seven cases were reported in managed isolation.

The country has been widely praised for its response to the pandemic, and the New Zealand economy saw 14% growth in the third quarter of 2020.

Like many other countries, New Zealand has also said it will ask international travellers from most countries to show negative Covid-19 test results before travelling to the country.

The government has also increased the living expenses required for international students to be granted a visa from $15,000 up to $20,000.

Chief executive of Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao Grant McPherson welcomed the news.

“This announcement not only signals the government’s commitment to the international education sector, but to international students affected by the pandemic, too.

“We are very pleased to see the government progress the safe return of international students to New Zealand.”

Universities New Zealand added that the 1,000 tertiary-level students had ” already made a commitment to New Zealand and we look forward to welcoming them back on campus”.

“This announcement reflects the important contribution international students make to universities, the wider community and the economy,” UNZ chief executive Chris Whelan noted.

“We are hopeful that we may be able to see further border exemptions in 2021, allowing our students to return and welcoming new ones as soon as it is safe to do so,” Whelan said.

“We are hopeful that we may be able to see further border exemptions in 2021”

This border exception follows on the earlier announcement of an exception for 250 PhD and Master’s students, who are now confirming their visas before returning to New Zealand.

Before the onset of Covid-19, international education was New Zealand’s fifth-largest export, contributing $5 billion to the economy and supporting around 45,000 jobs.

In December, Education New Zealand partnered with UK-based pathway provider NCUK to enable students in 30+ countries to access education at the country’s eight universities while borders remain closed.

Additionally, NCUK recently announced its first University of Auckland-branded International Study Centre in Beijing, China.

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