How to apply for a New Zealand student visa
Applying for your student visa in New Zealand doens't have to be overwhelming. Read our how to apply to find out everything you need to know. Source: Shutterstock

Applying for university can seem like a never-ending process of form filling and question answering before you even manage to begin your studies. From visa applications to accommodation allocations, it can be hard to get it all right without a little help.

Studying in New Zealand can be an amazing international experience. Not only does the region offer fees at a fraction of the cost of United States and United Kingdom-based universities, which their higher education system is modeled on, but New Zealand also offers beautiful nature to discover, bustling cities to explore and ever-changing seasons to keep things exciting.

Before beginning your study abroad adventure in New Zealand, you will need to consider whether you need a student visa, what you need to apply for this, and how much time you need to leave. It may sound overwhelming but here’s the Study International guide on everything you need to know.

Do I need a student visa to study in New Zealand?

Studying in New Zealand lets you work hard and play hard. Source: Shutterstock

You will need to apply for a student visa if you are:

  • not from the country, or its sunny neighbour Australia.
  • going to be studying in New Zealand for longer than three months

Luckily, New Zealand has a liberal visa policy compared to other popular study abroad destinations, such as the United States, and the majority of students that apply for visas in New Zealand are accepted.

You can choose to apply for your visa either online or in person up to six weeks before you depart for your study abroad adventure. Online visas typically take 20 days to process, while paper applications can take 25 days. It’s a good idea to leave extra room in case of processing delays or any other issues.

To apply in person, you will have to request a meeting with your local New Zealand embassy to discuss your application. Alternatively, you can apply for your visa through by registering for an account.

What kind of student visa do I need?

There are a range of student visas available to international students depending on the type of course you are doing.

From cityscapes to mountain views, New Zealand has it all. Source: Shutterstock

The main types of student visas are:

  • Fee-paying student visa – this visa allows you to study full-time at an accredited New Zealand institution for up to four years. You are also able to work 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during semester breaks.
  • Exchange student visa – you should apply for this visa if you are studying in New Zealand as an exchange student. The visa allows you to study in the country for the duration of an exchange programme that lasts up to four years. You can also work 20 hours per week during semesters and full-time during holidays.
  • Pathway student visa – this visa allows you to study up to three separate courses in a row within the country, lasting up to five years. This is great if you want to get a taste of New Zealand’s diverse culture under one student visa and really build your expertise. You are entitled to work 20 hours part-time during term and full-time during breaks.
  • Foreign government-supported student visa – you should apply for this visa if you have a foreign government-funded scholarship or loan. This visa allows you to study in New Zealand anytime between three months and four years, provided you can show evidence of the foreign support you will receive during your studies. You can also work 20 hours per week alongside your studies and full-time out of term time.
  • New Zealand aid student visa – if you’re studies will be financially supported by the New Zealand government, you should apply for this visa. You will be eligible to study in New Zealand for four years as well as work for 20 hours part-time during term and full-time when studies are on break.

You can explore visa options here.

What documents do I need to apply?

If you want to apply for a student visa, you first need to have an offer from an accredited New Zealand-based education provider.

Once you have an offer you will need to provide:

  • Evidence of sufficient funds – you need to be able to prove you have enough money to afford tuition and living costs for the duration of your degree. For tuition costs, you can provide evidence of scholarships or loans you will implement to pay for your studies. You also need a minimum of NZD$15,000 (US$10,870) for each year if your course is longer than nine months.
  • Proof of onward travel – to get your student visa, you must be able to show you have the financial ability to leave the country once your visa expires. This could be in the form of an onward plane ticket, proof of funds for an onward ticket or evidence of a sponsor who will fund your further travel.
  • Travel insurance – this is needed in case you incur any unexpected medical or personal expenses you cannot cover yourself. Insurance means the immigration authorities are confident the country will not be impacted if you are unable to afford any unexpected costs.
  • Medical certificates – if you are staying in New Zealand for more than one year, you will need to provide a general medical certificate and a chest x-ray.
  • Accommodation – if you are under 18-years-old, you will also need to provide proof you have arranged accommodation.
  • Police certificate – if you are over 17-years-old and will be staying in New Zealand for more than three months, you need to provide a police certificate that exhibits ‘good character.’
  • Passport – you must have a passport valid for a further three months after the date you leave New Zealand and two passport photos.

We recommend getting all your documents in order before starting your application to ensure everything runs smoothly. When you have all your documents, you can create an online profile to submit your visa application or get in touch with your local embassy to arrange an interview.

Source: Giphy

What happens when my student visa expires?

Once your student visa expires, you can apply for the post-study work visa (open). This allows you to work in New Zealand for 12 months for any employer that is relevant to your qualification.

After this, you can apply for a post-study work visa (employer assisted) which allows you to work in the country for a further two years for a specific employer.

You can apply for this visa if:

  • you hold a post-study work visa (open)
  • or apply no later than three months after the end date of your student visa (6 months if you are studying a PhD).
  • You can then apply for permanent residency after you have completed your post-study work visa (employer assisted) under the skilled migrant category. Permanent residency is allocated on a points system which considers your age, work experience, qualifications and an offer of skilled employment.

Now that you have your New Zealand student visa sorted, you can really get excited about your study abroad adventure. You’re bound to still have questions and queries about studying abroad, so take our quiz to find out what type of student accommodation will suit you best if you’re unsure, and check out our packing tips to make sure you have everything you need. Good luck!

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