international students New Zealand
A bartender pours a beer on the first day of re-opening after establishments were shut for two months due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Wellington on May 21, 2020. Bars across New Zealand reopened on May 21 following on from retailers and schools to complete the country's emergence from a strict COVID-19 lockdown that began in late March. Source: Marty Melville/AFP

New Zealand student visa holders are at risk of losing their status as the country’s borders remain shut to almost all foreigners and applications for student visas are temporarily suspended. According to The Indian Weekender, over 1,700 international students stuck overseas have lost their visa status in August 2020.

This number includes student visa holders under different categories — English language study, exchange student, full fee-paying, pathway and scholarship holder — according to Immigration New Zealand (INZ). The government agency revealed that as of Aug. 23, 2020, there were 5,182 international students stranded outside New Zealand borders, from which 1,704 face losing their visa status by the end of August. INZ added that the visas of 2,247 international students currently stranded overseas will expire by the end of the year.

The number of international students currently stranded abroad includes those who may have previously travelled to New Zealand and those who have yet to travel to the country. INZ also said there are 39,794 international students onshore; close to 15,000 international students were issued student visas in January (5,037), February (5,367) and March (4,217) before borders were closed.

A big question mark hanging over international students

INZ has temporarily suspended applications for temporary visas, including student visas, from outside New Zealand for three months from Aug. 10, 2020. The move follows Finance Minister Grant Robertson previous statement on the unlikely return of international students to New Zealand this year as the country needs time to establish the quarantine facilities to host returnees first. Education Minister Chris Hipkins also said it is unlikely that international students will be allowed to enter this year as COVID-19 is “raging overseas”. 

Despite that, international students who already have a student visa and are outside the country can still study with their education provider online. “If the ‘first entry before’ date on your visa has passed, you will not be able to travel to New Zealand on that visa. When the border re-opens and you have re-confirmed your study plans, you will need to apply for a new student visa before you will be able to travel to New Zealand,” explained INZ on their website.

Students who decide to cancel or defer their study plans must contact their education provider. “If your visa application has not been processed you can contact us to withdraw it. Requests for visa application fee refunds will be considered on a case-by-case basis,” said INZ.

Students without a New Zealand student visa

INZ explained that students who are outside New Zealand can still study online without a visa. Once the country’s border restrictions are lifted, students can provide evidence of their online study to support their visa application. 

Those who choose to study online in their home country first will still need to meet standard student visa requirements to be granted a student visa. These requirements include being a genuine student, having sufficient funds for maintenance, and being of good health and character, said INZ.

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