Updates for International Students

Find key information and guidance for all UC international students, whether you are studying in New Zealand or overseas. 


International Student Arrival Week

Throughout the year, we have the privilege of welcoming new and returning international students into the UC whānau. 

  • Book your appointment for International Enrolment in Person here.
  • New Student Induction – UC offers an arrival week programme for all international students arriving to study at UC for the first time. The programme will help you get settled to start your semester, introducing you to specific learning-related information at UC here as well as a great opportunity to meet fellow students, services on campus and student leaders.
  • Each year UC Herea tō waka Orientation Day (O Day) has a full programme of information sessions and social activities designed to help new students get the best start for day one at UC.


Q: What extra help is available to help me study this semester?

  • Student Care Advisors - provide practical advice for your well being and success as a UC student - studentcare@canterbury.ac.nz
  • Academic Skills Centre / Pokapu Pukenga Ako- free advisory service and resource hub to help you improve your writing and study strategies - academicskills@canterbury.ac.nz
  • Equity and Diversity Services - provide a range of supports for students with disabilities - eds@canterbury.ac.nz
  • College Student Advisors - please liaise with your college advisor
  • UCSA Student Advocate - provide advice on your situation, future options and provide support on navigating the university system help@ucsa.org.nz 
  • There are also numerous resources to help you with your study in LEARN

General Support

Q: Who can I talk to if I have questions about my study and life in New Zealand in general?

Your health and well-being are extremely important at this time. The Student Care Team is your international support team and is available for consultations. If you would like to talk with someone, please make an appointment using their online booking system. The UC Student Care Team website also has lists of existing online resources that you might find useful. One particular link is to the Mental Health Foundation of NZ webpage – it has a whole section on Apps, e-therapy and guided self-help

UC also has a dedicated email address for all COVID-19 related issues and enquiries. If you have a question that has arisen because of COVID-19, please email ucprotect@canterbury.ac.nz in the first instance. 

Finally, the International Relationships Office – iro@canterbury.ac.nz are here to help you navigate your transition into your new world. We encourage you to go directly to the specialist support services available, however, if you feel a little lost – just reach out and we can help guide you.

Financial Support

There are many financial hardship support mechanisms provided by UC and the UCSA. This support is design to help with immediate, short-term emergencies/unexpected costs, and they can not be used for tuition fees. Applicants will need to provide evidence to support their hardship applications. In general, one needs to have less than $1000 in the bank to qualify as having hardship.

Education New Zealand (ENZ) has established an International Student Hardship Fund in response to the COVID-19. This means that the University can apply to ENZ for support if all available resources are exhausted. Individual students can not apply to the grant directly.

Please note that all international students are required to provide proof of funds to Immigration New Zealand when applying for a student visa. If you have been granted a student visa for a year and have provided financial documents to Immigration to prove your financial capability, you will need to explain the reasons for seeking hardship support at this point.

Examples of hardship:

  • You are on a tight budget and have an unexpected dental bill to pay
  • You rely on regular money transfer from home & COVID-19 disrupted the immediate transfer schedule

What is not regarded as hardship:

  • Perceived loss of income due to not being able to get a job
  • Failing courses and having to pay fees to repeat them

If you are unsure about whether your circumstances fit with the description above, please contact the UCSA Welfare & Advocacy Team in the first instance. We appreciate that all international students would feel impacted by COVID-19 in their unique ways. However, it is important to remember that these funds are established to protect and care for the most vulnerable and most affected students.

Q: I’m financially struggling - what can I do?

If you are experiencing financial hardship that will have an impact on your studies, you may be eligible for financial support. Please contact the UCSA Advocacy & Welfare team in the first instance to discuss your situation. UCSA Advocates will assess your circumstances and may make a further referral to Student Care if your situation fits the criteria for International Student Welfare Fund.  

The New Zealand Ministry of Education provides information here. Please don’t be too proud to ask for help. These are difficult times and these organisations are here to help you.

Q: I’ve lost my job due to COVID-19. Is there anything to supplement my lost income?

Students (including International students) who are legally entitled to work and are employed by a New Zealand employer can be covered by the wage subsidy. The subsidy covers employees who are working part-time, or on a casual or contract basis. Please note that as the subsidy is paid to employers, the subsidy does not cover international or domestic students who were not in employment before COVID-19. A useful link to the details of the policy is available here.   

Health and Insurance 

Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The following information is from the Ministry of Health.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are one or more of the following:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature (at least 38°C)
  • shortness of breath.
  • sore throat
  • sneezing and runny nose 
  • temporary loss of smell 

These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have COVID-19. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu. Shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms take up to 14 days to show after a person has been infected. A person can pass on the virus to others before they know they have it - from up to two days before symptoms develop.

If you have these symptoms, please telephone Healthline (free) on 0800 358 5453 or your doctor immediately.

Q: How do I get a test for COVID-19?

If you are concerned about any COVID-19 symptoms you are experiencing, please immediately contact Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or call your doctor in New Zealand.

According to the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB), healthline is necessary to be tested at a Community Based Assessment Centre (CBAC). If you do not have a referral, you will not be tested at a CBAC, so you must first ring Healthline (0800 358 5453) or your doctor.

No on-demand or drop-in COVID-19 testing is being carried out at Christchurch Hospital.

Q: How much will a COVID-19 test cost?

A consultation that results in a referral for COVID-19 testing, the test itself and any follow up if the test result is positive, is covered under public health funding.

If you are under the care of  UC Health and if the test comes back negative, then you are responsible to pay for any ongoing care (but the initial consultation and the test still remains free) – whether your insurance covers this is up to the insurance to determine. UC Health will invoice you their normal fee.

If the initial consultation does not warrant a COVID-19 test, then UC Health will bulk bill Studentsafe (or the student will pay if they have another insurer).

Q: Insurance – things to know about COVID-19 related claims

Pandemics are usually excluded from insurance policies. The University preferred provider (Studentsafe/Allianz) has issued a statement previously stating that policies purchased after 30 January this year are purchased with awareness of COVID-19, hence the insurance company won’t pay any claim that is caused by, or in any way connected with this event for policies purchased after this date.  It is recommended, however, that you do submit a claim for medical and medical repatriation costs if your insurance policy was purchased prior to 30 January 2020. 

The exclusion clause is imposed by the insurer and is outside the University’s control. However, as COVID-19 is a notifiable disease, it is expected that the key medical costs associated with the disease would be covered through the public healthcare. For more information, please see the Ministry of Health website.

Visa Information 

Q: I want to drop down to two courses this semester - will this affect my visa?

In the first instance, please contact the Student Care Team (studentcare@canterbury.ac.nz) to discuss your circumstances.

Immigration New Zealand requires a minimum of three courses (minimum of 45-course points per semester) to qualify for a student visa. At this stage, Immigration has not changed this requirement for student visa holders. 

For information regarding Immigration New Zealand’s response concerning COVID-19 please see Student visa COVID-19 information.

We also suggest you discuss changes to your courses with your course coordinators. 

Q: How can I extend my student visa?

Current students that need to extend their visa and are residing in Christchurch may apply through UC. Please check out our webpage here. You can request assistance by emailing: student-visa@canterbury.ac.nz


Q: When can my family come to join/visit me in NZ?

We appreciate your desire to be reunited with your family. However, travelling involves health risks to your family members, yourself, and potentially the New Zealand public. There are also practical limitations such as the travel restrictions imposed by governments. 

Immigration New Zealand has issued statements relating to visa application and travel. You can see updated information here. 

Q: How should I arrange travel home?

We appreciate the uncertainty that you may be feeling at this time. 

The New Zealand border is currently closed to almost all travellers to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The travel ban applies to all arrivals into New Zealand whether it is by air or sea. Find out the latest about travel here.

If you are considering travelling home, please contact your embassy or consulate general’s office and register your details with them. This means that you will receive the most updated travel and border restriction information from your home government. This also means that if your government has organised flights for its citizens to return home, you will be notified. 

Please be aware that once you return home, you will need to wait until any border restriction are lifted in order to return to New Zealand. 


Border exemptions for International students

If you are a current UC student and eligible for return to New Zealand under the border exemption category, please see the border exemption webpage

What can I study as an offshore student?

  • New to UC students (2021) can study online with UC’s Start Online, Finish on-campus pathway; this pathway lets you start your degree now and transition on to campus once the New Zealand borders open to international students. Discover all online courses and programmes here.
  • Current UC students continuing their studies offshore – please liaise with your college advisor and iro@canterbury.ac.nz to discuss your options.

Where do I find information about online enrolment and orientation?

  • Online Orientation Programme is a week filled with information sessions for all new international students and will be held the week beginning 15 February 2021 via zoom. This online orientation is an important way to prepare yourself to start university and discover all the support services available to you as a UC online student.
  • Information on enrolling online, uploading documents and using AKO | LEARN can all be found here.
  • There are also resources to help you with your study to AKO | LEARN. If you are experiencing particular difficulties adjusting to learning in the online environment, it’s important to reach out to your course coordinators and let them know. 

What support services are available for online learning?

UC has many services in place to support you in your online learning. This includes academic support, e-learning tools, and a range of student care services.

  • Student Care Advisors - provide practical advice for your well being and success as a UC student - studentcare@canterbury.ac.nz
  • Academic Skills Centre / Pokapu Pukenga Ako - free advisory service and resource hub to help you improve your writing and study strategies. The UC Academic Skills Centre (ASC) offers distance students support for 1-1 appointment, some quick queries are answered here. You can contact ASC by phone: +64 (03) 369 3900 or Toll-Free 0800 827 748, and ask for the Academic Skills Centre or email academicskills@canterbury.ac.nz to make an appointment.
  • UC Library supports your learning and provides access to the research database. UC Library provides some key online services including Ask Live chatbox, specialist subject librarians, and access to the online research database. 
  • Equity and Diversity Services - provide a range of supports for students with disabilities - eds@canterbury.ac.nz
  • College Student Advisors - please liaise with your college advisor
  • UCSA Student Advocate - provide advice on your situation, future options and provide support on navigating the university system help@ucsa.org.nz

See all support services here

Visa information

Do I need a valid student visa to begin my studies online?
You do not need a valid student visa to begin your studies online outside of New Zealand, but you will need one before you travel to UC. It is still important to ensure you would be eligible for a student visa to be able to travel to New Zealand and continue your studies when the New Zealand border is reopened to student visa holders.

You can check the Immigration New Zealand website for updates.

Student Visa suspension for new students
The New Zealand borders do continue to remain closed to all non-citizens and non-residents. From 10 August 2020, the Government suspended the ability for those offshore to apply for a temporary visa, including student visas. This suspension has been extended until Feb 2022.

Immigration New Zealand advises not to apply for a student visa at this time (because it will not be processed). When the border situation changes we will be in touch with you. Please visit Immigration NZ for more updates.

If you are a current UC student and eligible for return to New Zealand under the border exemption category, please see the UC border exemption webpage.  

What if my travel to New Zealand is delayed?

If you are an international student impacted by COVID-19 please contact our International Team iro@canterbury.ac.nz so we can keep you fully informed.

If you are a current UC student and eligible for return to New Zealand under the border exemption category for bachelors and postgraduate students, please see the UC border exemption webpage

Doctoral students can contact the Dean of Postgraduate Research (deanpgresearch@canterbury.ac.nz) and their supervisors. Other postgraduates should contact the relevant College.

Financial Assistance

We know that being a student can be financially challenging and that the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the issue for some. There are many financial hardship support mechanisms provided by UC and the UCSA. More information about financial support for international students can be found here.


UC is working closely with Universities New Zealand and the Ministry of Education to welcome a small number of international students back to Aotearoa New Zealand, and the UC campus, in 2021.

“The University of Canterbury’s top priority is the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders, and we’re proud of the work of UC academics and researchers, including Michael Plank, Alex James and Arin Basu, in highlighting the best practice in the fight against COVID-19. UC students overseas have had their study severely impacted, and we’re delighted that a small number will soon be able to return to Aotearoa to complete their studies.”

- Tracey Wilson, Director of International Relations, University of Canterbury

International postgraduate students returning to UC

In late 2020, a small number of international postgraduate students were approved to return to the UC campus following the initial government exemption, which will see up to 250 international postgraduate students return to Aotearoa New Zealand in 2021 to continue their research studies.

For more on the border exemption for international postgraduate students, including their COVID-19 and Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) requirements, click here> 

International undergraduate students returning to UC

In early 2021, following the success of the initial border exemption process, the New Zealand government announced a second exemption that would allow up to 1,000 undergraduate students to return to Aotearoa New Zealand, in stages, to continue their tertiary study.

New Zealand’s education sector are working closely to identify the students eligible for the new exemption. We will be in touch with those who we believe will fit into our allocations, once final details have been confirmed.

For more on the border exemption for international undergraduate students, including their COVID-19 and Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) requirements, click here >