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A Chance To Return, But At What Cost?

$20,000 for living expenses, $3,100 for MIQ facilities, $250 for a new visa. How many stranded international students can afford to come back?

The New Zealand International Students’ Association (NZISA) is pleased to announce that the Government has approved the return of a second cohort of international students as early as April 2021. This cohort will consist of 1000 international students studying at a bachelor’s degree level and above. This move is a positive continuation from the Government’s decision last October to provide an exemption for 250 PhD international students. NZISA commends the Government for taking the initiative to bring back more international students, upholding their responsibility to deliver the Recovery Plan for the International Education Sector. It shows that the government has been responding to the lobbying efforts from NZISA, tertiary institutions and key education agencies.

This exemption brings immense opportunity to international students whose studies have been disrupted by COVID-19, however, there is a huge upfront cost for their return. The selected 1000 international students will have to prove that they possess $20,000 in funds, an increase of $5,000 from the previous requirement for living cost. On top of that, returning students will have to shoulder the full cost of MIQ facilities at $3,100 per person. With additional costs such as visa application fees and flight tickets, each student would have to prepare approximately $25,000 in total to take up this opportunity. Although the demand for a spot on this exemption will be high, NZISA is concerned that the associated financial requirements will prove too costly for many international students.

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Institutions paved the way in 2020 by subsidising half the cost of MIQ facilities for the 250 returning PhD students. This is a step in the right direction for tertiary institutions and it reflects positively on our national image as a world leader in tertiary education. NZISA encourages institutions to continue doing so by supporting this cohort of 1000 international students with half of their MIQ cost. NZISA supports the introduction of this new exemption, however, NZISA strongly advocates for the living cost requirement to remain at $15,000 for all international students. This will allow a more equitable selection of international students from all economic backgrounds to return to New Zealand.

NZISA would like to highlight the importance of continual efforts from the Government and tertiary institutions to provide COVID-19 support to international students onshore and offshore. NZISA seeks to advance the border recovery progress by continuing to work closely with government agencies and our key stakeholders to ensure that the international student voice is heard.

For more information for tertiary international students on the new border exemptions, please visit the Ministry of Education website.

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