Border exemption granted to international university students stuck overseas during COVID-19 lockdown

A border exemption has been granted for 1000 international university students who had begun study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when the COVID-19 restrictions kicked in.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said on Thursday students can return in stages from April 2021. 

Three hundred students will arrive in April, with the rest arriving throughout the year as managed isolation availability allows. 

All students will be subject to the same isolation and testing requirements as returning New Zealanders. 

Hipkins says students must be able to "do more to support themselves in New Zealand", with the living expenses required for students to be granted a visa raised from $15,000 to $20,000. 

"This system allows providers to welcome back students who have made the greatest commitment to New Zealand, and manage pressure on the Managed Isolation and Quarantine system."

He says while there is a need for caution around the virus, New Zealand's economic recovery is also important.

"The annual economic value of this group of 1000 degree-level international students is estimated to be roughly $49 million in wider economic contribution, including approximately $27 million in tuition fees

"It underscores the Government's commitment to the international education sector, which is important in the country's long-term economic recovery from COVID-19."