Advice for schools with international students

Advice for schools with international students

The COVID-19 response has changed the education and experience for international students, and many may be finding the situation challenging. Schools should ensure that students and their residential caregivers have the additional support they may need.

Unite against COVID-19 

General advice on responses before, during, and after an emergency

Information on various emergency situations:

Emergencies and traumatic incidents

Communications with international students

  • Maintain regular contact with all international students. Keep a closer eye on students who you feel may be at risk (due to health concerns, accommodation issues or other concerns).
  • Have clear and regular lines of communication with students’ natural parents (including interpretation / translation if needed). Parents must be informed of any situation where a student may need to change accommodation, and where possible they and the student should be involved in the discussion about alternative accommodation.

Enrolment and funding process

If schools are aware of children in their community who wish to enrol at their school but are not currently able to do so, they should contact their regional office. The regional office will support schools through the enrolment and funding process.

If enrolling these children causes a schools’ roll to increase by the number needed to receive additional funding, schools can access this through the Extraordinary Roll Growth process, and staffing can be recalculated using the new roll. These are existing processes for funding and staffing, more information can be found here:

Staffing for roll growth — Ministry of Education

Additional information

28-day waiver

Some schools have been allowing visiting children to attend school under a 28-day waiver. This is a provision that allows a school to enrol an international student for a period of up to 28 days without the payment of any fees, at the principal’s discretion.

[1] These children have not paid international student fees so they are able to be enrolled as domestic students under this notice.

Visas and time-limited study rights

A visitor visa holder is ordinarily entitled to study with a New Zealand education provider for up to three months in any 12-month period. After this time, if a child wishes to continue attending school, they must be granted either a new visitor visa or a student visa.

For more information about visitor visas, see the Immigration New Zealand website. If you have any questions about temporary changes to visas due to COVID-19, please direct these to Immigration New Zealand.

Immigration New Zealand

Examples of who is and is not eligible

A child who came to New Zealand

Eligibility Status

To visit her cousins on a visitor visa. She is staying in with her aunt and uncle and has not been going to school

Eligible as they are living with family and have not enrolled as an international student. They can enrol for 3 months on their visitor visa

With her father to visit her grandmother. Her father hoped to enrol her in school and has applied for her to get a student visa. She has been attending school for two weeks without paying fees (at the principal’s discretion) while they wait for her visa to be processed

Eligible as they are living with family and have not paid fees as an international student. They will be eligible on their student visa as well

To stay with her grandparents and attend a local school. She arrived on a student visa and has been attending school as an international fee-paying student

Ineligible because they have enrolled and paid fees as an international student

With her parents on visitor visas to see if they would like to move to New Zealand. She enrolled with a local school so that she could try it out while the family were in the country. She has been attending school on a visitor visa for 2 months and paying international student fees

Ineligible because they have enrolled and paid fees as an international student

In 2019 with her father while he did work in New Zealand. She attended school as a domestic student for 3 months in 2019 as her father’s work visa granted her domestic status. His work visa expired at the end of 2019 but they both stayed in New Zealand on visitor visas for a summer holiday. She has not attended school in 2020 as they cannot afford international student fees

Not eligible as they no longer have study rights remaining on their visitor visa. They would be eligible if they applied for a new visitor visa or a student visa.

With her parents to attend a family wedding. They have now been in New Zealand for a few months and have enrolled her in a local school as an international fee-paying student to keep up with her schooling

Not eligible as they have enrolled and paid fees as an international student

On a visitor visa as part of a holiday programme and is staying with a host family. She now wishes to attend school but cannot afford international student fees

Not eligible as they are not living with family

Please contact your regional office if you require any further information or support. Parents who wish to enrol children under this provision can contact schools for assistance.

Changes to vaccine requirement for residential caregivers of international students

Vaccine mandates will be removed for the education sector at 11:59pm on 4 April. Visit the following page for more information on the changes:

Removal of vaccine mandates

Schools should consider the vaccination status of an international student’s homestay household as part of its obligations under the Code of Practice for international students. As always, schools should consider discussing any factors that impact a student’s well-being with the student and their parents.

Supporting mental wellbeing

Our COVID-19 and Wellbeing page have tips and information to help support student and families. 

The Government's COVID-19 website provides ideas to support mental wellbeing.

Looking after your wellbeing - Unite against COVID-19

For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, students and/or homestay families can call or text 1737 - free, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - to talk with a trained counsellor.

Responding to general pastoral care issues during the Covid-19 response

An international student is unsafe

If you become aware that the student is:

  • a danger to themselves or others
  • at immediate or imminent risk of sexual, physical or psychological harm
  • otherwise seriously unsafe.

You must immediately phone 111 and inform Police of the situation.

Following guidance from Police, you should contact the Regional Office for further advice, including support to move the student to alternative accommodation.

You must also ensure that the student has access to any additional support required, for example medical support, Guidance Counsellor / external counselling support, or the mental health Crisis Assessment Team (as appropriate).

The COVID-19 website includes information on services that may also be able to support including where a person experiences abuse.

Contact and support —

The student suffers illness or injury

  • If the student has an illness or injury, the residential caregiver / school should call 111, the student’s GP, or Healthline (as they would under normal circumstances).
  • They should then follow the advice of health authorities.
  • If the student suffers a critical incident the school must follow the usual critical incident processes. This should include contacting the Regional Office for further support.
  • The school must also advise the Code team at NZQA:

Vaccinating international students 

The Ministry of Health encourages everyone eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations. Covid-19 vaccines are now available for free to anyone aged 5 and over, including international students.

  • International students don't require a NHI number to get the vaccine.
  • Children aged 12 and over do not require parental consent to receive a Covid-19 vaccination. However, in line with The Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice, we advise that schools seek permission from the parent/guardian of international students to receive a COVID 19 vaccination. 

NauMaiNZ also has information for international students to help you understand what is happening in New Zealand in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Further information regarding Covid-19 vaccines can be found on COVID-19 website.

COVID-19 vaccines - Unite against COVID-19

The residential caregiver becomes unable to look after the student

  • If there is another adult in the household who is able take on the role of residential caregiver/primary carer, the student should remain where they are.
  • If the person who takes on the role of residential caregiver does not usually live in the household, and/or has not been vetted in accordance with the Code of Practice, this person must be vetted including a Police vet.
  • If an urgent Police vet is needed schools can use the code “COVID-19” in the Police vetting request.
  • The person who takes on the role of residential caregiver must also be vaccinated in accordance with the vaccination order.
  • If there is no other suitable adult within the household to take on the role of residential caregiver, contact the Regional Office for further advice on moving the student to alternative accommodation.

Emergency contacts

  • The school principal or other members of the senior leadership team.
  • International staff should engage school leadership in any emergency situation that may arise. - This should be done remotely, where possible.
  • Each school has an MoE liaison person who is on call. Your principal will have the contact for your school’s liaison, and they should be brought in when emergency accommodation situations arise.
  • Emergencies that lead to a breach of public health rules are a Police or medical officer of health matter.
  • For Police support where students are at immediate risk of harm, use the 111 number.
  • For Police support in other situations, use the 105 number. Where necessary, Police may engage in person.
  • Health Line 0800 358 5453 (Covid-19) and 0800 611 116 (general).
  • Where students become ill or their host families become ill, schools must contact Healthline and health authorities will lead school staff on next steps.
  • Crisis Assessment Teams (CAT) — Ministry of Health mental health crisis assessment teams around the regions, for emergencies only.

Guidance on responding to accommodation issues that arise during the COVID-19 response

Alternative accommodation

If you need to provide alternative accommodation, you must ensure that it meets all the requirements in the Code of Practice. If an urgent police vetting is needed, schools can enter ‘COVID-19’ into the ‘Agency Reference’ field of the online vetting request form.

Note, this code should only be used where alternative arrangements are required urgently as a result of COVID-19, and schools must enter the code into reference field exactly as “COVID-19”.

Unless there are no other options, students should not be moved to accommodation shared with anyone who is at high-risk for COVID-19 (over 70 or with existing health issues), or essential workers. It is also desirable to move students into households where everyone over 12 years of age is vaccinated. This is to protect both the homestay family and the student.


Providers or students with visa-related questions should contact Immigration New Zealand or check their website for general information about student visas relating to COVID-19:

Immigration and COVID-19 — Immigration NZ

Anyone 12 years and over who has had any dose of the COVID-19 vaccine administered in New Zealand can now request an International Travel Vaccination Certificate. 

International Travel Vaccination Certificates -

For more information about domestic and international travel, go to the COVID-19 website.

Travel at Red – Unite against COVID-19

Travel at Orange – Unite against COVID-19

Travel at Green – Unite against COVID-19

Before a student leaves the country, educational providers must ensure that certain requirements are met under the Code.

These include:

  • Clear and timely communication with students and parents or legal guardians about travel. Parents/legal guardians and students should only be consenting to travel with an informed understanding of the relevant risks, the possibility of changing plans, and the uncertainty about being able to return to NZ to study in the future.
  • A transfer of care plan for under 18 students that is agreed to in writing (digitally) by the parents or legal guardians.
  • Appropriate and safe supervision for students under 18 to ensure that the wellbeing of the student is maintained during their transfer of care.
  • When travelling to the airport, health and safety advice must be followed.