The plan confirms that up to 5,000 international students will be permitted to enter the country in April under a border exception class.
The return to usual visa processing will enable international students to enrol for study in New Zealand in 2023, according Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao.
“By the time we start to reopen our border, we’ll be one of the most vaccinated and most boosted countries in the world and the Covid-19 Protection Framework will be well established in helping to manage Covid outbreaks,” Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement.
The border will open first to New Zealanders from Australia on February 27, before the country allows nationals from the rest of the world in from March 13. The 5,000 places for international students entering for semester two are included in the third step from April 12.
The government has permitted some international students to arrive in the country during the pandemic, with border exception classes in 2021 and 2020.
The steps enable to international education sector to “progressively open through 2022 for the existing cohorts, with a new much larger cohort able to enter New Zealand for study before semester two”, according to ENZ chief executive Grant McPherson.
“More details of the new student cohort will be determined by the ministers of Education and Immigration and advised in due course,” he said.
Universities New Zealand said that the announcement provided “much-needed certainty” for universities and their existing and prospective international students who “have been waiting patiently offshore for such a long time”.
“We value the certainty that comes from the announcement borders will be fully reopened to international students from October”
“We value the certainty that comes from the announcement borders will be fully reopened to international students from October. It will mean Aotearoa New Zealand universities will be fully open to them again in time for the start of the academic year in 2023,” the peak body’s chief executive, Chris Whelan, said.
The PIE has previously reported that uncertainty around visa processing and the border reopening was causing concern for students and stakeholders.
The partial reopening for 5,000 international students from April 13 also means “at least some international university students will be able to make it onshore for the start of semester two”.
Although the number is “only a small proportion of the number we know are clamouring to get here”, he added.
Students from visa waiver countries such as Japan and South Korea may also enter New Zealand for trips of up three months from July, McPherson noted.
“The government has demonstrated their commitment to international students and educational institutions in 2023, with normal visa processing resuming in October 2022. This means international students can plan towards being in New Zealand for courses starting in 2023,” he continued.
“It has been an incredibly challenging period for New Zealand education providers, international students, and those who support them. The sector has shown considerable patience as the borders were carefully managed to minimise the threat posed by Covid-19.”
The announcement is “an opportunity to rebuild and reshape the sector to meet the challenges ahead”.
“Australia, the US, UK and Canada are now all fully reopened to international students, but New Zealand won’t be until October, in time for 2023, leaving us a year or more behind those competitor countries,” Whelan however continued.
“As public health considerations are better understood over the coming months, we hope this allocation of 5,000 places can be increased so we do not lose students to our competitors.”
University of Otago international office director, Jason Cushen, recently told Otago Daily Times that the institution that was attended by some 3,000 international students before the pandemic, received permission for 148 students to return to the country since 2020.
In early 2021, Universities NZ predicted that 10,000 international students would be the “best case” for the country’s campuses for the year.
“What will be two-and-a-half years of Covid-19 border controls mean New Zealand has a lot of catching up to do, so it is good the minister of Education intends to travel later this year to help restart our international education markets,” Whelan said.
“Our universities look forward to welcoming back the international students we can in 2022”
Stakeholders have previously warned that the country’s border reopening plan puts New Zealand’s education providers at a competitive disadvantage.
“Meanwhile, our universities look forward to welcoming back the international students we can in 2022 and enjoying again their important presence in our communities, both on campus and off,” Whelan added.
McPherson added that the country’s education providers will continue to feature the “innovation and diversification” into online learning and delivery of courses offshore they have shown during the pandemic into the country’s offer going ahead.
NauMai NZ will provide information for international students in New Zealand or preparing to travel to the country, he added.