International students still face uncertainty about how their studies will be affected this year by New Zealand travel restrictions. Currently, Immigration New Zealand has suspended visa processing for most individuals who are outside New Zealand, at least until August 5, 2022.
Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara chief executive Chris Whelan was quoted as saying: The cake news that it generally takes about five months for international students to meet visa requirements, organize travel and everything else needed to live in New Zealand. He added that they “need confirmation now if they want to arrive in time for the second semester of our universities in June and July.”
“While the government has said it will begin a phased reopening of the border to fully vaccinated foreign nationals from April 30, 2022, international university students who wish to begin, continue or finish studying in person should know when they can enter after that date. Whelan said.
The recent spate of global COVID-19 cases threatens again the country’s plans to start a phased reopening of their borders to foreigners. This included allowing New Zealanders traveling from Australia to enter the country on January 16, 2022, while nationals and residents from around the world would return from February 13, 2022.
In December, it was announced that travel for New Zealand residents would be pushed back to the end of February. This was to give the New Zealanders time to receive their booster shots before returning.
There are as yet no updates on how New Zealand travel for non-residents, including international students, will be affected. However, scientists have pushed for the government to postpone reopening plans until more research is done on the variant.
International students call for more clarity on New Zealand travel guidelines
While international students could return from April, news that student visa processing services would be suspended until August has raised some doubts as to whether students will be able to return before the start of their sophomore semester.
“Three cohorts of border exceptions of a total of 1,550 international university students have been awarded so far, but most of Aotearoa New Zealand’s existing and prospective international students remain offshore, uncertain,” said whelan.
However, the lack of clear information about travel in New Zealand is most worrying. Ainslie Moore, acting director of international operations at the University of Auckland, said this remains the top hurdle for students.
“The uncertainty about the timing and isolation process to enter the country is the main barrier,” she told The Pie News. “If students get a border exception offshore, they apply for a visa, then they get a place in FRIENDS (managed isolation and quarantine). Visa processing for these students was smooth and timely, but access to MIQ is limited. Some eligible students with a visa in hand still do not have an MIQ spot.”
International students are calling on government officials to give them more transparency on this and have a online petition for their return, along with clarity about:
- When open student visa applications for foreign international students
- If international students are caught by “excessive restrictions” such as MIQ (Managed Isolation and Quarantine)
- If the government has alternative plans for those who do not meet the work visa criteria regarding the number of hours studied in the country
- If students who were unable to gain a full university experience in New Zealand, compensation will be offered, such as in the form of a tuition discount
Border insecurity has heavily impacted students’ lives
The prospect of not being able to enter the country before the start of their second semester means that: some students would have spent their entire university experience online.
“The expectation of experiencing something new, something outside of my country cannot be fulfilled,” Thai PhD student Natdanai Nachan told the New Zealand Herald. “I hope to know the exact date and time when I can apply for my visa to enter the country.”
In October 2020, the government gave exemptions for 250 PhD students and later 1,000 other international tertiary students to return for their education. Nachan was not eligible.
Tuba Azeem, a PhD student from Pakistan, was also unable to travel to New Zealand on the basis of this guideline. Because she was abroad, she was unable to receive her PhD grant and had to get married – something she says would not have happened if she had managed to conduct her studies.
She explained that she couldn’t go to college to get the “normal education that every other doctoral student should get to complete their research.” “It’s impacted my mental health on a whole different level,” she told the New Zealand Herald.
“If the situation doesn’t get worse, I expect to be in New Zealand in 2023 to submit my thesis,” she added.