New Zealand Student Visa Guide

You will need a student visa if you intend on going to study in New Zealand and are not a New Zealand or Australian citizen or permanent resident. The requirement to obtain a visa in advance is mandatory for all formal courses of more than 3 months duration at New Zealand educational institutions, including schools, colleges, technical institutes and universities.

New Zealand Student Visa Guide

A New Zealand student visa is specific for the course you wish to follow, the institution your course is offered at and the period of time that the course is designed to last.

Documents Needed to Obtain a New Zealand Student Visa

You first need to apply for a course at a New Zealand educational facility and be accepted provisionally. Usually, the institution will have criteria that must be met before a place can be offered. Once your place on a course has been accepted provisionally (dependent on a valid visa being given by NZ Immigration authorities) then you can go ahead with applying for a student visa. The advice from NZ Immigration is that the sooner you do the initial preparation, the better as there are a large number of documents that you will need to provide. If these documents are not in English, then you will also need to have them translated into English before they are accepted.

The Main Documents that you will need to Submit with your NZ Student Visa Application form are:

● A valid passport that is dated not to expire for at least 3 months after the end of the visa period
● Two passport-type photographs
● Acceptance offer from the educational institution in New Zealand
● Proof of adequate health insurance
● Proof of adequate financial means to stay in New Zealand through the period of the course
● Character references
● Completed application form INZ 1012

Additional Requirements for Student Visa

Although you apply online and submit the above-listed documents online with the application form, you may be asked to attend an interview or show additional information. This is to make sure that you are a genuine student, have the educational ability and prior qualifications if necessary to complete the course and are not intending to use the time you are in New Zealand for any other purpose, e.g. start a business or find employment. If you are asked to attend an interview, it will most likely be arranged at the nearest NZ High Commission, Consulate or Embassy, depending on the country you live in.

The cost of a NZ student visa is currently NZ$295 (approx. $US200). Payment of the visa fee is required before a visa application can be accepted. Fees can be made by bank cheque or bank draft, but not by credit card or cash. Fees are not repaid if the visa application is rejected. This puts the onus for preparing a student visa application on the individual student and whoever is helping them. In most countries there are agencies that can provide useful visa application help for those people who are considering applying for student and other specific visas.

Time Taken for Visa Processing

Immigration New Zealand states that a student visa application may take anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks after the application has been received. Note that the time period is only after all necessary documents are received and the fee has been paid. The time period means that it is sensible to start preparing for the visa application at least 3 months in advance.

Information about accompanying dependents

Adult age students who are married and may have children may be able to bring their spouse and dependent children to New Zealand while they study. Most dependents will be granted a visitor visa if the main applicant has been given a valid student visa. The visitor visa status will be valid for the same time as the student visa of the main applicant and will not allow the spouse or dependents to work while in New Zealand.

One possibility is that the spouse can apply for a work visa rather than a visitor visa. This is quite a complicated process but does at least allow the family to benefit from the money earned while the spouse is working in the country.

Working in New Zealand while Studying and Further Employment after a Course has Ended

Some foreign students are allowed to earn money from employment while on a student visa. The student must be enrolled in a course of at least 2 years duration to be able to work for up to 20 hours a week during the study period and full time during scheduled vacations. The regulations around working in New Zealand while studying are currently under review as there have been numerous incidences of overseas students being offered dubious ‘courses’ in order to entice them to work in the country for lower than minimum wages. This is illegal, but has become a problem that has been hard to stamp out. The NZ government is determined to ensure that all students are coming to the country to complete genuine educational courses and not principally to earn money.

Having said that, there are many foreign students who do go on to obtain employment in New Zealand after completing courses that lead to obtaining NZ qualifications which mean that they can fill a skill shortage in the country.