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How to Get a Student Visa for New Zealand: Comprehensive Guide

In recent years, New Zealand witnessed an influx of international students looking to further their education in the country. This influx is due to several reasons, such as that all universities in New Zealand are ranked in the top 3% globally.

New Zealand also has friendly immigration policies and is very friendly to international students. These reasons make the country a very appealing country to international students.

To school in New Zealand, prospective students must meet some standards that make them eligible for a student visa. This article highlights the prerequisites you need to meet to qualify for a student visa in New Zealand, the application process, and answers any questions you may have.

Why Study in New Zealand?

1. Research and Innovation:

Apart from having some of the best universities globally and the top-quality education these universities provide, students studying in New Zealand are exposed to research and innovation in numerous fields such as computer science, engineering, and agriculture.

New Zealand has highly trained faculty members, world-class laboratories, and access to the best and latest technology and equipment. The country’s prioritization of innovation makes it a center of new technologies, research, and development in various fields.

2. Quality of Life:

New Zealand is safe to live in; the 2021 global peace index rates the country as the third most peaceful country globally. International students studying in the country enjoy a high quality of life and a low cost of living – This combination makes the country very appealing.

Furthermore, New Zealand is a politically stable country, and its citizens’ political and civil rights liberties are respected and well protected. This level of protection is also extended to international students in the country.  

3. Work while studying:

International in New Zealand can work for 20 hours weekly during the academic year and 40 hours a week during holidays. Students pursuing research masters or doctoral degrees can work 40 hours a week all year round.

The opportunity to work while studying enables International students to earn money to pay for living expenses such as groceries and transportation. It also helps students meet new people and adjust faster to new environments.

Does New Zealand’s Healthcare System cover international Students?

Healthcare in New Zealand is not accessible for international students.

Thus, international students need to purchase health insurance in the country. The visa application process requires international students to declare that they will buy an international student insurance coverage covering their time in New Zealand.

Can I Stay in New Zealand After I Graduate?

International students can stay back in New Zealand after they graduate. They may apply for a Post-study work visa valid for up to 3 years if they meet the requirements criteria and have acceptable qualifications.

International students whose work is in occupations with skill shortages have an improved chance of finding a job in New Zealand.

They can also apply for a further work visa or residence visa. Some other reasons why international students choose to remain in New Zealand after graduating include:

● Beautiful Culture: New Zealand offers a blend of cultures. New Zealand citizens are also well known for being pleasant, hospitable, and warm to visitors and international students. New Zealanders enjoy meeting people from other cultures, and you’re bound to make a friend or two in no time!

● Rapidly growing expatriate community: New Zealand boasts a steadily increasing expatriate community due to the friendly nature of its people, family-friendly environment, high quality of life, and ease of doing business for foreigners. International students who school in the country can interact with people of multicultural heritage.

● Substantial research opportunities: International students who intend to pursue a research Masters or a Ph.D. in New Zealand have a vast array of research opportunities, materials, and equipment at their disposal. Thus, they are guaranteed a seamless and stress-free learning process. With the country being a hub of new technologies, International students who study in New Zealand have a front-row seat to witness and be a part of revolutionary developments.

● Additional benefits for International Ph.D. students: International Ph. D students are eligible to pay the same tuition fee as citizens of New Zealand. Unlike other degree students, they can work full-time during their studies.

What is a New Zealand Study Permit?

A New Zealand student permit, also known as a student visa, is a document issued by the New Zealand government to international students studying in learning institutions. International students must have a study visa to study in New Zealand.

The New Zealand student visa is of two types:

1. Fee-Paying Student Visa: this is the most common student visa issued by the Government of New Zealand. The Fee-Paying Visa is valid for up to four years, and it permits its holder to study full time for the one course stated on the visa.

2. Pathway Student Visa: the New Zealand pathway visa allows its holder to study up to three courses consecutively on a single visa. The pathway student visa is usually valid for five years.

However, Government can extend the New Zealand student visa if a student cannot complete their education within that period. Failure to properly apply for an extension may result in a student leaving the country without completing their education.

What is the Eligibility Criteria for a New Zealand Student Visa?

For international students to be considered eligible to receive a New Zealand student visa, they must have proved the following:

● A valid proof of identity

● A medical certificate as proof of good health

● Police certificate as proof of good character

● Evidence that they have genuine intentions

● Proof that they have an offer of place from an approved educational institution

● Proof that they have tuition fees

● Proof that they have full medical and travel insurance for the duration of their stay

● Proof that they have enough money to live on during their stay in the country

● International students must also prove they either have a return ticket home or enough money to buy one separate from their living expenses.

What are the New Zealand Study Permit Requirements and Regulations for International Students?

Before a New Zealand student visa is issued to international students, they must provide some documents.

The list of documents to provide may vary according to the student’s country of origin. Below is a list of documents generally required from international students:

● A valid passport

● A complete visa application form

● Receipt of payment of application fees

● Letter of offer of admission

● Health insurance receipt

● Passport-sized photographs

● Academic transcripts/ records

● Proof of English language proficiency.

Which English Language Exams are Required for Students Applying to New Zealand?

The New Zealand Immigration department does not have any English language requirements for international students. However, tertiary institutions within the country require English language proficiency before admitting international students.

The level of English language proficiency vary depending on the institution, but the accepted English language tests taken from international students as proof of English proficiency are:

Test of English as a Foreign Language Test (TOEFL) Internet-based or paper-based tests.

International English language Testing System (IELTS) Academic

● Cambridge English Advanced Test (C1)

● Cambridge English Proficiency Test (C2)

● Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic

What is the Process and Procedure of Study Permit Application for New Zealand?

International students can apply for a New Zealand student visa online or in-person before traveling.

To apply for a student visa in person within your home country, it is necessary to contact your local New Zealand consulate or embassy to get an application form and an appointment.

Alternatively, international students can apply online by visiting the official website and creating an account. It is advisable to apply at least six weeks before you plan to travel to New Zealand.

Application fees vary based on a student’s country of origin.

Generally, international students must show:

Acceptance letter from a university in New Zealand: this is an important document required to be submitted for your New Zealand student visa application to be considered. International students need to provide proof of acceptance at an accredited New Zealand- based education provider.

Proof of sufficient funds: International students also need to show that they have sufficient funds to pay their tuition fees (including proof of loan coverage, scholarship, or other funds). In addition, they need to provide proof of funds to cover living costs and expenses while they study in New Zealand.

Proof of future travel: This can be in the form of already paid-for travel tickets, proof of further funds, or an agreement from a sponsor to pay for onward travel. The point is to show that you intend and can afford to leave the country once you complete your studies.

Medical certificates: International students planning to study in New Zealand for more than 12 months need to provide a general medical fitness certificate, a chest x-ray certificate, and probably undertake a tuberculosis screening.

Additionally, international students also need to submit the following during the visa application process:

  • Two colored passport photos
  • A valid passport for at least three months after the date you plan to leave New Zealand.
  • Proof you’ve paid the application fee

Student visas applied online usually take up to 20 days to process, while student visas applied for via the paper form take 25 days to process.

Which University in New Zealand is right for you?

New Zealand has eight universities, ranking among the top 800 universities globally.

Choosing the right University for you to study is a decision that should be made while considering the following:

● Your course of study

● Academic courses available at the University

● Campus facilities and amenities

● General academic quality.

Below is a list of the universities in New Zealand, as well as some of the academic and research courses they are highly recommended for:

1. University of Auckland

The institution is New Zealand’s largest university by student enrollment. The University of Auckland has earned its place among the top universities globally due to its excellent reputation for courses such as Law, public, environmental and occupational health, civil engineering, agricultural sciences, and arts and humanities. The University also has a business school and pioneering research in aerospace and aerospace engineering, coastal and marine science, neural engineering, and power systems.

2. University of Otago

The University of Otago is a research-led university and the oldest University in New Zealand. The University is highly renowned for its excellence in early childhood education, biblical studies, bioethics, composition, pharmaceutical science, Law, politics, and plant biotechnology. Being a research-led university, the University of Otago boasts leading research in brain health, biochemistry, genetics, diabetes, and obesity.

3. Victoria University of Wellington

The Victoria University of Wellington is the go-to institution for humanities and social sciences inclined students. It is well known globally for its Law and Humanities programs. The University is also highly renowned for developmental studies, earth and marine sciences, geology, English language and literature, politics and international students, and library and information management. 

The University has leading research in fields like philosophy, earth sciences, foreign languages and linguistics and political science, international relations, and public policy, to name a few.

4. University of Canterbury

The University of Canterbury is New Zealand’s second-oldest university, and the university is also highly renowned for its research, sciences, and engineering programs. Some of its most famous courses include civil engineering, aerospace engineering, accounting, chemistry, business analytics, financial engineering, Law, and management. 

The institution also has pioneering research in astronomy and physics, geology and geography, information and computer sciences, economics and law, and biotechnology and biological sciences.

5. University of Waikato

The University is one of the youngest in New Zealand, but it is no less highly recognized. Subject areas for which it is highly ranked globally include computer science, accounting and finance, economics, education, sociology, and environmental sciences.

 The University of Waikato is also research-oriented, and some of its key research areas include; health and wellbeing, Law and policy, education, environment and planning, and biotechnology.

6. Massey University

Massey University is New Zealand’s leading University. The University is also the only one to offer degrees in courses like aviation and nanoscience. Some of the institution’s other highly ranked courses include; veterinary science, psychology, economics and econometrics, communications and media studies, biological sciences, and sociology. 

Some of the research fields the institution is well known for include; health and wellbeing, future food systems, data collection and modeling, and resource management and development.

7. Lincoln University

Lincoln University is one of New Zealand’s oldest universities. The institution specializes in subject areas such as agriculture, viticulture and horticulture, business, environment, landscape architecture, and sports and recreation.

8. Auckland University of Technology

Auckland University of Technology boasts a business school widely recognized as one of the best globally. In addition, the University ranks highly for courses like art and design, accounting and finance, electrical engineering, economics, and education.

New Zealand Universities Scholarships for International Students

We have carefully selected and listed a list of scholarships for New Zealand universities for international students below.

  • At Lincoln University, a scholarship database allows international students to look for scholarships for their particular courses at undergraduate and postgraduate study levels.
  • Massey University has scholarships for domestic and international students to study for a doctorate.
  • The University of Auckland boasts several scholarships made available to international students to study at the University of Auckland at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Other Available Scholarships Include:

  • The Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan offer, this scholarship to Canadians to study or research at a doctorate at a university in New Zealand.
  • New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Scholarships scholarships at undergraduate and postgraduate levels are available for students from several Pacific and Southeast Asian countries. These scholarships are fully funded and cover tuition fees, a fortnightly living allowance, and other expenses.

What is the Cost of Studying in New Zealand?

1. Tuition

Universities in New Zealand set their fees, and the fees vary depending on your study level, course of study, and student status. International students generally pay more than domestic students.

International undergraduate students pay between NZD 22,000 to 32,000 a year, but it’s higher for medicine and veterinary science courses. Most undergraduate degrees take three years to complete.

For international master’s students, the fees range between NZD 26,000 to 37,000.

International Ph. D. students pay the same tuition fees as domestic students, around NZD 6,500 to 9,000 (~US4,400-6,100) a year for most programs.

2. Living Costs

As an International student studying in New Zealand for more than a year, you’ll need to prove that you have at least NZD 15,000 to support yourself for the first year in your student visa application.

However, depending on a student’s lifestyle and location, they may need more than this. Generally, any amount between NZD 15,000 to 25,000 is considered enough to live on yearly.

New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington and the country’s largest city, Auckland, are the most expensive cities for living costs in New Zealand.

The University of Auckland estimates the following weekly costs for international students:

  • NZD 23 for utilities
  • NZD 8 for internet
  • NZD 10 for a mobile phone plan
  • NZD 8 for insurance
  • NZD 100-150 for groceries
  • NZD 35 for transport
  • NZD 50 for entertainment

Other living costs in New Zealand include compulsory health insurance, which international students need to have before starting their studies. Health insurance in Auckland University of Technology, for instance, costs NZD 670 a year.

3. Accommodation

Most universities in New Zealand offer Halls of Residence for students to live in, and these halls are usually an affordable option at around NZD 400 weekly. Students can choose between self-catered and catered accommodation, with the latter option being more expensive than the former.

Private accommodation is usually more expensive. For example, a shared apartment in Auckland can cost about NZD 190 to 316 a week.

Taking advantage of student discounts on everything ranging from groceries to transportation will also reduce living expenses for international students. The StudentCard is just NZD 20 and is a worthwhile investment.

4. Work Authorization For Students

The Government of New Zealand allows International students to work for up to 20 hours a week during the academic session, and full time during the holidays, if they are studying a course, would last at least two academic years, or at least lasts one academic year and is part of an approved tertiary student exchange scheme, or if it results in a New Zealand qualification.

For international students enrolled in a research masters program or doctoral degree program awarded by a New Zealand tertiary institution, their visas do not have any restrictions on the hours they can work.

How Can International Students to New Zealand Avoid Common Problems And Pitfalls?

Relocating to an unfamiliar country for educational purposes can be a lonely experience, especially at first, as adjusting and finding your footing is not always easy.

We’ve highlighted a list of common problems international students may face in New Zealand, as well as ways to avoid them.

  • High Cost of Living: Accommodation, groceries, transportation, and power bills can be expensive in New Zealand. This is especially true of cities like Auckland and Wellington. International students need to keep track of their living costs and avoid unnecessary expenses.
  • Language Requirements: Often, international students who are not native speakers of the English language experience difficulties keeping up with their courses and assignments because they are not fluent speakers of the language. Universities usually have an English as a Second Language program and learning advisers to help with this situation. International students experiencing difficulties due to language proficiency should take advantage of the help offered.
  • Weather Conditions: Students from hot climates and tropical countries would find New Zealand very cold, especially in the winter, particularly in the South Island. It is important to know beforehand if the region of the country you’re going to be based in experiences harsh winters to prepare ahead.

Additional FAQs about New Zealand Study Visa

Is New Zealand Open for Student Visa?

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand closed its borders to international students. However, the country intends to open its borders to fully vaccinated international students from April 2022.

Immigration New Zealand is currently not processing international student visa applications until February 2022 at the earliest.

● What are the Student Visa Conditions for New Zealand?

These are the conditions international students must meet to be eligible to receive a student visa:

● Students must be accepted for a course at an approved education institute.
● Students must have enough money for tuition fees or proof that they have a scholarship that pays their fees.
● Proof that they have enough money to live on while in the country.
● A ticket out of New Zealand, or evidence that they have enough money to buy one.

● How Long Can International Students Stay in New Zealand with a Student Visa?

As student visa holders, international students are eligible to stay in New Zealand for the duration of their studies.

This visa usually lasts between one to three years. Those who cannot complete their studies within this period will need to apply for an extension so they are not illegally in the country.

● How Early Can You Apply for an NZ Student Visa?

The Government of New Zealand advises that international students apply for a student visa at least eight weeks before coming.

The application can either be done online or in person. Students who have the necessary documents ready and provide all the important information are likely to get a quicker decision regarding their visa approval.


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