Border exemptions for international undergraduate students

Beginning April 2021, some international students already enrolled in tertiary education in Aotearoa New Zealand will be able to return to the country through a new border exemption.

A total of 1,000 students will be allowed back in through this border exemption through 2021 in stages so the country’s COVID-19 isolation and quarantine system is not overwhelmed.

Eligible students must have been in New Zealand studying in 2019 or 2020 and must prove that they must be in the country to complete their degrees.

UC is supporting this pilot for students’ return and transition back to on-campus study in Ōtautahi Christchurch and we are working quickly to identify students who meet the Government criteria, and have the ability to return to New Zealand.

What is happening?

The exception means a variety of tertiary institutions across Aotearoa New Zealand from universities and polytechnics/institutes of technology to wānanga (public institutions that provide education in the context of Māori culture), and private training establishments can welcome back a proportion of undergraduate students, currently based overseas, whose study has been disrupted due to COVID-19.

Return in stages

The first intake will involve a maximum of 300 students in April 2021, and subsequent groups will return in stages throughout the rest of the year in order to reduce strain on Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) facilities.

The government has confirmed that those students closest to graduation will be given priority when deciding who will be allowed to return.

What do students need to do?

To be eligible for the border exemption, students must demonstrate that they need to be in New Zealand to complete their degree and:

  • Hold, or have held, a 2020 study visa;
  • Be pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher;
  • Have been in New Zealand in 2019 or 2020 studying towards their current degree;
  • Be going back to their current education provider in New Zealand to study.

What is UC’s role in the process?

The International Relationships Office are working quickly to identify and reach out to eligible students and guide them through the process. Students do not need to contact the university directly. If you have any questions, please email