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Student visa for fee-paying and exchange students

This student visa will match those who primarily want to study in New Zealand. The visas of this type commonly allow limited employment hours, may be issued to cover a number of consecutive courses and are very specific in terms of what course of study the holder may be doing.

Why would you study on a student visa?

Whilst you may have multiple personal reasons to attend a course in New Zealand, a lot of people bear in mind prospective pathways leading them all the way from studying, through employment to residence.

In fact, getting a New Zealand qualification is the first step one might consider taking. Skills learnt locally are usually preferred, compared to overseas certificates of equal weight, as they come with a New Zealand focus on work values, necessary soft skills, as well as implying deeper knowledge of the rules of the game in the employment field, thus increasing employability.

Once you are in the country, you can take a look around and look for the best way to apply yourself. If, for some reason, your priorities change, you can, by all means, go on to study a second or subsequent course of study, as there is no cap on those for foreign students.

Is New Zealand a good place for studying?

New Zealand is renowned for its high-quality education system. It is for this reason that degrees and diplomas are highly sought after by international students who also pursue long-standing goals of settling in the country, as well as securing themselves lucrative jobs in the meantime.

The best place to study by a long shot, New Zealand offers a range of options for students. The country’s most esteemed educational institutions open their door for you, offering a choice of diploma programmes. While on a student visa, you may be able to work part-time, bring your family, and, without doubt, enjoy the enviable quality of education, work-life balance and diverse culture, all of which are New Zealand staples.

Do you need a student visa to study in New Zealand?

The answer is – normally, you do.

Unless, however, you

  • have a work visa and your employer gives a go-ahead for you to study to up your skills;
  • have a temporary class visa and you want to study one or more courses which will last up to 3 months in total in a 12-month period.

On these occasions no student visa is necessary.

How long can you study for?

The visa duration will usually correlate with the length of the study you will be doing and will usually coincide with the tuition time which you have paid for. The maximum currency of this type of visa is 4 years.

The expiry of a student visa is usually set sometime after the course finishes, so that the students have time on their hands to get some rest, do some travelling if they like, and prepare for departure. Visas based on the New Zealand academic year will commonly expire on 31 March of the year which follows, whereas those under 1 year in duration will most likely allow the stay of up to 1 month after graduation.

Where can you study?

At any public or private school, training establishment, polytechnic, university, or other, but only if the following important condition is met: all education providers who take international students must be signatories to the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016. In this way international students receive proper care and protection, as well as comprehensive information about their rights before the course of study begins.

To check whether the school you zooming in on is a signatory, you can follow this link on the NZQA website (

What programs can you study on a student visa?

You can choose virtually any program approved for international students, which means it satisfies the provisions of the Education Act 1989. Your chosen school will normally confirm this in their offer of place; however, for peace of mind you can always ask NZQA.

Hints for prospective pathways

If your long-term goal is to secure an Accredited Employer Work Visa, you may want to start with analysing the labour market and identifying its shortages. An initial step here may be to look at the Green List (see the link here) and find anything to your liking. With a job on such a list, the employer will not have to go the extra mile to prove that no New Zealanders are available for the job, and your visa may be issued sooner. With a local diploma on hand, you will not have a hard time proving you are suitably qualified for the job.

In this points-based category, New Zealand qualifications rate quite high, fetching from 40 (for levels 3-6 on the NZQF), 50 (for levels 7-8), and all the way to 70 points (levels 9-10).

On top of that, New Zealand qualifications starting from level 7 and up, may bring you additional, bonus points (10-15).

While it may feel like you are thrown in at the deep end when you have to settle into a totally new environment, culture, customs and weather conditions, you may reach out to us at your convenience for professional advice, and may rest assured your needs will be taken care of in the best possible manner.

What can I do on a Student Visa?

You may

  • study the course in which you enrolled;
  • work for up to 20 hours a week if you are 16 or older (for students aged 16-17, consents from school and parents will be necessary); you can also
  • work full-time during holidays at Christmas and New Year;
  • rent your own place or share the abode of your friends or relatives, though under a certain age you must stick to your legal guardian or parent when you travel and live in New Zealand; in addition,
  • if you are a fee-paying student under 18, you should enclose a letter from your school stating that the conditions of the place where you live are in line with the rules of Pastoral Care of International Students.

Can I work part-time regardless of the type of my study?

Although they would have a visa of the same type, not all students will have the right to undertake employment.

You can only work if you are- doing a full-time course of at least 2 academic years’ long, or

- studying a full-time programme which leads to getting a New Zealand qualification that would qualify for point under the Skilled Migrant Category, or

- studying full-time for at least 1 academic year and the programme that is part of an approved student exchange scheme;

- engaged in a full-time programme that lasts for at least 24 weeks with the primary focus on furthering English language skills, and you have recent acceptable English language test results on hand (for example, 5.0 or higher in General or Academic module of IELTS).

What about full-time work?

You may be able to work during the scheduled breaks in your course if- your course is a full-time one and lasts for at least 1 academic year, and
- your course is worth at least 120 credits, and
- its delivery takes place for at least 8 months (minimum two semesters).
You may also be able to work full-time during the Christmas and New Year holiday period if:- you are studying full-time, and
- your course lasts for a minimum of 2 semesters during a period of at least 8 month


Visa for PhD and Masters by research students

There are no restrictions on the hours these categories of students can work.

Talk to us to learn more about the work rights on your student visa, including secondary schools’ students and practical experience requirements. Book your 30-minute free consultation with our immigration consultant.

What will you need to apply?

The set of supporting documents to accompany an application for a student visa will include

offer of place or confirmation of enrolment (for returning students). It will have the name of the programme you intend to study, its duration and nature (full- or part-time), evidence that the education provider meets the requirements to educate international students, the assessment by the school that you are likely to meet the programme requirements, the specifics of the fee (amount, type); a confirmation of enrolment will usually contain some part of the above information;
evidence of payment of tuition fees (unless exempt or it is being paid for by a scholarship, government loan or other education scheme); if you are living outside New Zealand, this can be provided after approval in principle;
evidence that you have sufficient funds to maintain yourself and to travel back to your home country from New Zealand; alternatively, you may have to show proof of any bona fide sponsorship or financial undertaking, which will pay for your stay; the maintenance money requirement at the moment is set at $15000 a year (less prepaid living expenses) for study programmes of 36 weeks or longer, or $1250 a months for those under 36 weeks;
any medical and travel insurance arrangement (except PhD students and holders of New Zealand scholarship by MFAT) which will comply with the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016;
proof of being bona fide and
of good health and character.

What if you change your mind and want to study another programme?

As common sense suggests, nobody can push you to complete the course of study if you have already decided otherwise. Circumstances change from time to time, as do our intentions and desires. You may be granted a further student visa or variation of conditions of your current one if you can make a convincing case for the Immigration Officer. Among other things you may need to show that you are still a bona fide applicant who is up for the suggested course of study and has no intentions of breaking the conditions of your visa.

You are most welcome to seek professional immigration advice from us at your fee-free 30-minute consultation. Our adviser will present your case to INZ, highlighting the genuineness of your determination to study in New Zealand further and to benefit the country with your skills.

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Our adviser and director has been in the same boat with most of our valued clients who come to seek his counsel. He came to New Zealand as a migrant in 2002 and has been calling it home since then. It is our pleasure to serve your needs and provide professional immigration advisor services to help your dreams come true.
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