New Zealand borders reopen
New Zealand borders will reopen in stages: 300 in April and the rest staggered throughout the year when quarantine capacity allows. Source: Marty Melville/AFP

New Zealand has approved a pilot programme to bring a group of international students back. New Zealand borders will reopen to them in stages: 300 in April and the rest staggered throughout the year following the country’s quarantine capability, education minister Chris Hipkins announced today as reported by local daily Stuff. The programme applies to degree-level students and those stuck abroad ever since New Zealand made an unprecedented move to bar entry to almost all non-citizens or residents.

“Our top priority continues to be the health, safety and wellbeing of all people in New Zealand,” Hipkins said. “They will need to book their space through the allocation system and will be billed the standard charges for managed isolation.” Proof to show they will be able to support themselves will also increase. “They also need to be able to do more to support themselves in New Zealand, with the living expenses that are required for international students to be granted a visa now raised to 20,000 New Zealand dollars — up from NZ$15,000,” Hipkins said.

new zealand borders reopen

Domestic travellers wear face masks as they arrive at the Wellington International Airport on Aug. 12, 2020. New Zealand’s dream run of 102 days without locally transmitted coronavirus ended on August 11, prompting a stay-at-home lockdown order for the country’s largest city. Source: Marty Melville/AFP

Tertiary institutions will contact eligible candidates; students need not apply. Requirements include: a visa to study in 2019 or 2020 towards their current qualification, as well as proof that they need to be in New Zealand to complete their programme.

Stalled: New Zealand borders reopening

The announcement comes as New Zealand tightens its borders to curb the spread of the more infectious variant of coronavirus first discovered in the UK and now found in more than 30 countries. Knows as B.1.1.7, it is reportedly one-and-a-half times more transmissible than the previous mutation. Returning Kiwis stand to wait months for a spot in the Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) programme.

The plan to welcome international students is said to be balanced against the country’s need for skilled workers and the ability for New Zealanders to return home, according to Hipkins. Victoria University, University of Otago, Massey University and Canterbury University commended the move. ”The university will work with the Ministry of Education, Immigration New Zealand and other agencies to manage this process, which will see some Wellington students able to return to study on campus this year,” said Victoria University acting vice-chancellor Rawinia Higgins​. Although 1,000 is a relatively small number — there were 117,276 foreign enrollees in 2018 — Auckland University’s International office’s deputy director, Ainslie Moore said, “But for each individual student, the opportunity to return is huge.”