As it prepares to phase down its zero-Covid plan, New Zealand and Australia are among the countries with the toughest border controls in the world, making travel to these countries conceivable will be a major concern.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced a tentative timetable for when the New Zealand border will reopen on Thursday, despite mounting pressure from Kiwis detained abroad due to the world’s strictest pandemic travel restrictions.
Hipkins said that beginning next month, immigrants from a handful of small Pacific island states will be allowed to travel without quarantine and that more low-risk countries will be evaluated early next year. After dealing with a Covid-19 Delta variant outbreak that started in Auckland in August of this year, New Zealand has been adamant about barring its international borders.
On Thursday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared that Auckland residents will be permitted to travel over the summer, overturning tight lockdown rules that had been in place since August 31.
With a few exemptions, many overseas travelers are unable to visit New Zealand at the time of writing. After the government declared a border class exemption 400 pilot trainees, 300 students at the degree level and above, and 300 students at the sub-degree level, a total of 1,000 international students in higher education will be authorized to enter the country starting in 2022.
According to the Ministry of Education, only students nominated by education providers and whose eligibility has been validated by Immigration New Zealand will be allowed to travel. Both new and returning students are eligible for the new exception.
The Ministry, in collaboration with government departments and foreign education bodies such as Universities New Zealand, Te Pkenga, and private training organizations, will evaluate how many suitable students will be admitted (PTEs). Nominations will commence in December 2021, with the first students expected to arrive in March of the following year.
The Ministry has also detailed procedures for future students to take to ensure that they are travel-ready once information from their educational institutions becomes available. After their visa applications are granted, new students will not be able to schedule space for the necessary Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) in December 2021 and January 2022.
Only New Zealand residents and citizens will be able to book slots in the next two months. “An approved visa application does not guarantee a MIQ spot in a timely manner,” it said. International students are expected to return to New Zealand universities by mid-2022 with foreign enrolment numbers remaining “astonishingly high,” according to Radio New Zealand.
Secondary schools in the country, on the other hand, are anticipated to have the lowest level of international enrolments next year, putting a further blow in the sector’s 40 million New Zealand dollar income loss during the pandemic. The government authorized an exception class earlier this year that allowed 1,000 overseas undergraduate and postgraduate students to re-enter the country to resume their studies if they had a visa to study in New Zealand and were nominated by their education provider. Due to a complex application process, inadequate MIQ spaces, and misunderstanding regarding eligibility, only about 200 people were reported to be successful.
A distinct category had been established last year to admit 250 international Ph.D. and postgraduate students prior to the January announcement.
At the International Education Forum 2021 in Auckland on July 12, Education Minister Chris Hipkins was quoted as saying that no substantial changes to plans permitting international students to go to New Zealand had been made. Even though no definite dates for admission in 2022 were offered other than the border class exceptions indicated, Hipkins has been publicly helpful in aiding students’ return amid stringent lockdown measures.
Non-citizens aged 17 and up who wish to visit New Zealand must be completely immunized with an authorized Covid-19 vaccine and have received the dose for at least 14 days prior to travel. Upon arrival, they will be required to produce confirmation of immunization from a government health authority or permission authority, as well as complete a week-long MIQ.
The government has prolonged the suspension of visa processing for most people outside of New Zealand until February 6, 2022, unless border regulations ease. Immigration New Zealand will only examine those who are not subject to Covid-19 restrictions and have been granted a border exception for visa processing.
For the time being, travel to New Zealand appears unlikely for the majority of overseas students. Agents are dubious about overseas students’ chances of returning to New Zealand in early 2022, according to a Navitas Agent Perception Research survey.
According to reports, Ardern stated that by mid-December, the country will have a 90 percent immunization rate, allowing it to be “better prepared for fewer restrictions” within its borders. However, a government official has stated that a decision on international travel will be made in the next two weeks.