New Zealand is a popular study destination for many. New Zealand education providers generally have a good reputation and offer a quality learning experience. Attractive weather and lifestyle in New Zealand contributes to an enjoyable student environment and often completes the picture.

The number of tertiary international students in New Zealand has increased substantially over the last 10 years. International students comprise a growing proportion of all tertiary students. Statistics from the Ministry of Education show that the number of full-time tertiary international students in 2017 was 43,100. By early 2020 this had gone above 60,000. Between 2007 and 2017, the number of tertiary international students as a proportion of all students increased from 8.3% to 15%. In 2017 83% of tertiary international students were from Asia, 22,200 from China and 13,800 from India.

Can I study in New Zealand?

Unless you are a New Zealand citizen or resident, you will likely need a Student Visa in order to study in New Zealand. The holder of a Student Visa is permitted to study in New Zealand for the duration of their Visa. There are some people who do not require a Student Visa;

  • Holders of other types of Temporary Visa, to study for less than three calendar months within a 12 month period;
  • Working Holiday Visa holders, to study for less than 6 months during their total stay in New Zealand;
  • Work Visa holders, to undertake study or training which is authorised by their employer as part of their employment;
  • New Zealand citizens and residents.

Some can study while paying the same fees that a New Zealand citizen or resident would pay. This category of person is called a “domestic student”. The most significant category of person considered to be domestic students are the dependent children of most Work Visa holders, where the child is studying at a primary or secondary level. However, most people who come to study in New Zealand do so as fee-paying international students. Fees that international students pay are generally substantially more than what is required from domestic students.

To assist with the cost of study, tertiary international students can usually work for up to 20 hours a week during the academic year and full time during the Christmas-New Year holiday period. International students are often found working as retail assistants, waiting tables or otherwise working in restaurants and bars, and working in supermarkets.

What should I study in New Zealand?

There is no restriction on what course can be studied in New Zealand, but if gaining Residence in New Zealand is the end goal, it is important to study a course that will set you up to obtain employment which is skilled for the purpose of the Skilled Migrant category. In our experience here at Laurent Law, while many people are able to secure the post-study Work Visa which follows completion of study in New Zealand, many are unable to secure skilled employment in their field of study and therefore fall short of the requirements to be granted Residence.

For example, an applicant is better off studying something that requires specialist, technical knowledge or expertise, particularly in an area in which New Zealand suffers a skill shortage so that many jobs will be available, as opposed to something more general in nature. This may require some research.

The classic example of a situation which does not lead to Residence is completing a Business qualification and then going to secure employment in the retail sector. Only a Retail Manager will meet the requirement for skilled employment, not a Retail Sales Assistant, and Immigration New Zealand takes a very strict view of who and what is a proper Retail Manager as opposed to Sales Assistant. Whether an applicant is a genuine Retail Manager has been the subject of a large number of hard-fought appeals to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal, many of which are unsuccessful.

Student Visas and the effect of Covid-19

Radio New Zealand has reported that the number of international students in New Zealand has declined due to Covid-19.

In late April 2020 there were 51,580 people with a valid Student Visa in New Zealand, 14.5 percent fewer than the 60,348 who were in New Zealand in mid-March. Some had their Student Visas expire and others returned home on repatriation flights, but the closure of the New Zealand border and uncertainty about when it will re-open will have led to many delaying or cancelling their study plans.

Nevertheless, education providers are reporting that interest in study in New Zealand remains strong, with many now receiving enquiries for study in 2021. It appears that now New Zealand appears to have eliminated Covid-19, the country is viewed as a very safe and attractive destination, particularly compared to places such as the USA and the UK.

The National Party has recently proposed that international students be allowed back into the country, provided they undergo a health check and can self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in New Zealand. The concern appears to relate to the fact that the New Zealand economy will suffer further without international students. The National Party is also saying that in the interests of keeping jobs for New Zealanders, international students will not be able to work. How the international students may feel about that is not clear, but because you need to be a New Zealand citizen or Permanent Resident in order to vote, the opinion of international students themselves are not likely to influence the stance of these politicians.

Queenstown has been suggested as a suitable location for international students to self-isolate, given the international airport and the number of hotels situated there.

How can I get a Student Visa?

You can apply for a fee-paying international Student Visa through Immigration New Zealand’s online service. Applicants need to;

  • Provide an offer of place from a New Zealand education provider and pay or show the ability to pay tuition fees;
  • Show sufficient funds for support while in New Zealand and evidence of an outward flight;
  • Complete a Chest X ray and carry Medical Insurance;
  • Provide Police Certificates to show they are of good character;
  • Genuinely intend to study in New Zealand (be a bona fide Student).

Application fees vary depending on your country of citizenship and where you are applying from. Some applicants may be required to submit their passport to a Visa Application Centre. Some Student Visa holders can bring a partner and children on Temporary Visas if they wish.

Contact us here at Laurent Law for assistance with your Student Visa application.