Tuesday, November 29, 2022
HomeCOVID newsNew Zealand border reopening uncertainty frustrates locked out international students

New Zealand border reopening uncertainty frustrates locked out international students

Pending border reopening makes international students unsure about how the New Zealand travel restrictions will affect their studies this year as they remain locked out of the country. Currently, Immigration New Zealand has paused visa processing for most people living outside of New Zealand until at least August 5, 2022.

More clarity on border reopening guidelines sought

According to Chris Whelan, chief executive of Universities New Zealand – Te Pkai Tara, it takes roughly five months for overseas students to meet visa requirements, organize travel, and everything else required to live in New Zealand. Whelan also added that they “need confirmation now if they are going to be able to arrive in time for our universities’ second semester in June and July.”

“Although the government has said it will begin a staged border reopening to fully vaccinated foreign nationals from April 30, 2022, international university students wanting to start, continue, or finish studies in person need to know when they can enter after that date,” said Whelan.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has implemented stricter border restrictions. Photo: Dave Lintott
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has implemented stricter border restrictions.

The latest global COVID-19 outbreak is jeopardizing the country’s ambitions to begin a progressive reopening of its borders to foreign citizens. This included permitting New Zealanders traveling from Australia to enter the country on January 16, 2022, while citizens and residents from all across the world would be able to return on February 13, 2022.

It was stated in December that resident travel to New Zealand will be delayed until the end of February. This was done to provide New Zealanders time to get their booster injections before returning.

While overseas students might return as early as April, news that visa processing services for international students will be suspended until August casts questions on whether students would be able to return before the start of their second semester.

“Three cohorts of border exceptions totalling 1,550 international university students have been granted to date but most of Aotearoa New Zealand’s existing and prospective international students remain offshore, uncertain,” said Whelan.

The absence of clear information about New Zealand travel, on the other hand, is the most worrying. According to Ainslie Moore, interim director of international operations at the University of Auckland, this is still the most major barrier for students.

“The uncertainty around the timing and isolation process for entering the country is the main barrier,” she told The Pie News. “When students offshore are granted a border exception they apply for a visa, then a spot in MIQ (managed isolation and quarantine). Visa processing for these students have been smooth and timely, but access to MIQ is constrained. Some eligible students with visas in hand are still without an MIQ spot.”

International students are pleading with government officials to offer them greater openness on this case, and have launched an online petition requesting for their release, as well as clarification on:

  • When do student visa applications for international students from other countries open?
  • If “outrageous limitations” such as MIQ are imposed on overseas students (managed isolation and quarantine)
  • If the government has backup plans for people who do not fulfil the work visa criterion for the number of hours spent studying in the nation.
  • If students who were unable to complete their university studies in New Zealand will be compensated in any way, such as tuition cost reductions.
Natdanai Nachan has been doing his PhD online with the Victoria University of Wellington. Photo: Supplied
Natdanai Nachan has been doing his PhD online with the Victoria University of Wellington.

Impact on students’ lives of uncertainty about border reopening

Some students will have spent their whole university experience online if they are unable to enter the nation before the beginning of their second semester.

“The expectation to experience something new, something outside my country is unable to be fulfilled,” Thai PhD candidate Natdanai Nachan told the New Zealand Herald. “I hope to know about the exact date and time that I can apply for my visa to enter the country.”

The government granted exemptions for 250 PhD candidates and 1,000 other international undergraduate students to return for their study in October 2020. Nachan did not meet the requirements.

Tuba Azeem, a PhD candidate from Pakistan, was also denied entry to New Zealand as a result of this instruction. Because she was unable to get her PhD allowance due to her foreign status, she was compelled to marry, something she claims would not have occurred if she had been able to complete her studies.

She claimed that she was unable to attend university in order to acquire the standard training that any other PhD student should undergo in order to complete their study. “It has just affected my mental health on a very different level,” she told the New Zealand Herald.

“If the situation doesn’t get any worse, I am expecting to be in New Zealand in 2023 just to submit my thesis,” she added. 

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