The New Zealand government has announced plans to welcome international students back to the country ahead of the beginning of the new semester.
Under this plan, international students who are stranded outside due to border closures and travel restrictions will be allowed to return to New Zealand in stages. The first stage will welcome 1,000 international students in April.
Only previously enrolled students – and not newly admitted students – who intend to return to NZ to resume their studies will be allowed entry to the country under this plan, as the government aims to re-energise the international education sector which generated $4.5 billion annually before the pandemic.
Universities New Zealand estimates that approximately 21,000 international students usually flock to New Zealand every year, but this number is set to be less than half this time around due to travel restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Universities New Zealand Chief Executive Chris Whelan said it was still unclear how many international students will be allowed to travel to New Zealand in preparation for the new semester, with the best-case scenario being around 10,000 students to start the semester with.
About 13,000 – 14,000 international students remain in New Zealand, but with many of them finishing their studies throughout lockdown, the number will be reduced come the start of the new semester.
More than 5,000 international students with valid international student visas are stranded outside New Zealand, who will be allowed to reenter the country under the government’s plan gradually.
The announcement comes as part of the New Zealand government’s proposed long-term strategic recovery plan, which will gradually welcome both existing and new international students back to New Zealand and return the country’s international education sector to its pre-pandemic state.