Border exemption for returning international doctoral students

AUT is supporting the return and transition of some international PhD and research master's students back to study in New Zealand. The New Zealand government recently announced it is allowing 250 PhD and research master's students to return to New Zealand to continue their study following disruptions due to COVID-19.

Note: Information is current and may be subject to change at any time without notice.  Please check this website regularly for updated information.

What students need to do

You don't need to do anything. AUT will identify students who are eligible and will contact you directly to explain how the process will work.

Once we have nominated students, Immigration New Zealand will ask those students to confirm their interest to travel to New Zealand for study. You will have to complete the necessary requirements for travel, immigration and managed isolation and quarantine.

Updates on student visas during COVID-19 on Immigration New Zealand website

Eligibility criteria

Students need to meet eligibility criteria. You may be eligible if you:

  • Will hold or have held a visa to study in 2020
  • Have been unable to enter New Zealand due to COVID-19
  • Are enrolled in a qualification that involves practical components, and must be in the country to progress or complete their study

Priority will be given to doctoral students who have a practical component to their research, which cannot be completed overseas.

Managed isolation and quarantine in New Zealand

Students approved to enter New Zealand need to stay in a government-managed isolation and quarantine facility for 14 days when they arrive. Where their visa conditions allow it, students will be able to bring their dependents, who will need to travel with them.

Cost to students (before and after you arrive in NZ)

Because of COVID-19, there are new costs that will increase the amount you need to pay to come to New Zealand to study.

The cost of managed isolation and quarantine is NZD $3,100. You are expected to pay the full amount, and AUT will pay half of this as a fee credit when you return to New Zealand. Check out the document below to find associated costs involved (all costs are GST inclusive).

Returning students cost table

If you are nominated: how the pre-travel process works

The process for getting permission to travel from Immigration New Zealand is more complex than usual. We understand that for each student who may be eligible, there are factors you need to consider carefully. These steps will help you to understand how the pre-travel process will work and what you can expect.

Students don’t need to do anything. AUT will contact you by email if we have identified you as a student meeting the priority criteria to be considered for entry to New Zealand. We will ask you to confirm your interest in travelling to New Zealand to continue your studies.

If you meet the eligibility requirements, and you want to return to New Zealand, we will let you know what you need to do to confirm your interest.

You need to pay your tuition fees at this point (if you haven't already), as you will need evidence of payment for your visa or CPVOC (Critical Purpose Variation of Conditions) application.

When you have confirmed your interest, your name and details will be provided to Immigration New Zealand.

AUT will let you know when to complete the Request for Travel form.

You will be sent a link to the form (on the Immigration New Zealand website) by AUT. Your details will be compared against records provided by AUT to Immigration New Zealand to make sure you have been nominated for consideration for entry.

Don't complete the form before you have been asked to

If you try to complete the RFT form before you have been told by AUT to do so, your application will be rejected without consideration.

This form has a fee of NZD$45.

List any family members

You need to list any family members you would like considered for permission to travel with you on this RFT.

Once they have processed your RFT, Immigration New Zealand will send you an Invitation to Apply (ITA).

This ITA will tell you which forms you need to complete and what kind of updated evidence you need to provide. The student visa application fee is approximately NZD $330 (plus levies), however this differs by nationality and your place of residence. If your student visa is still valid, then you will only need the Critical Purpose Variation of Conditions (CPVOC) which has a fee of NZD $190.

Again, do not worry about what to apply for – Immigration NZ will tell you when they process your RFT and send you the ITA.

Once you have been granted permission to travel, you will need to reserve a place in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) and arrange your flights. You will not be allowed to travel without the MIQ reservation.

We suggest you check both flights and MIQ places before making any reservations. This will give you an idea of when travel may be possible, as you will need to arrive on the same day that your reservation in MIQ begins.

You will need to enter your flight details when you finalise your reservation in MIQ.

Frequently asked questions

Find out more about eligibility, and how managed isolation and quarantine in New Zealand works.

Eligibility and consideration

To be eligible to enter New Zealand as part of this exception pilot, students must:

  • Hold or have held a valid visa to student in New Zealand in 2020.
  • Have enrolled in study toward a PhD or other postgraduate qualification prior to the New Zealand border closing in 2020.
  • Have a practical component to their research, which cannot be completed overseas.
  • Stay in a New Zealand Government-managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility for 14 days before returning to study.

Unfortunately, new students will not be eligible for the border exception pilot.

Allowing 250 PhD and research master's students to travel to New Zealand is a step towards supporting students who are currently overseas and have had to deal with significant uncertainty about the progress of their research which could not be completed from overseas.

The approach also allows the New Zealand Government to manage the demand on managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

We appreciate for many this may be a difficult decision, particularly now with ongoing COVID-19 cases in many countries throughout the world. The global pandemic has changed many things in our lives and each student’s situation will be different. There are many things to consider including family, cost, safety, security and support.

While this is an excellent start to allowing international students back into New Zealand, we have learned that things can change. If you have been informed you are an eligible student, it is important you consider the decision before confirming your intention to return to New Zealand.

The Graduate Research School will email you directly if you are a PhD student who cannot progress or complete your degree offshore (priority group 1).

The email will outline what you need to know and who to contact, and will link you to other important information to support your decision to return to New Zealand.

Managed isolation and quarantine

The New Zealand Government's COVID-19 response requires every person entering New Zealand from overseas, including New Zealand residents and citizens, to spend two weeks (14 days) in a government-managed isolation and quarantine facility. This is key to  preventing the transmission of COVID-19 into our communities.

Managed Isolation and Quarantine website

The New Zealand Government website has full information about what to expect in managed isolation. This is also translated into a number of languages.

Students who are thinking about returning and have been notified by the University should read the information provided on the government's Managed Isolation and Quarantine website so they are fully aware of what is expected for the 14 days.

Managed Isolation and Quarantine website

If approved by Immigration New Zealand, students can bring their family with them. If approved, your family will also be required to stay in the managed isolation and quarantine facility together for 14 days. You will be required to pay all costs associated with your family including travel, managed isolation and quarantine, accommodation, and living expenses.

Family members are in addition to the total 250 places available.

The University understands that this can be a stressful process for anyone returning the New Zealand and is working to develop a comprehensive plan to support student well-being during the managed isolation and quarantine period and support their transition back to campus.

More information will be available soon.

The cost for managed isolation and quarantine is NZD $3,100 with an additional NZD$950 for accompanying adults and NZD $475 for children aged 3-17. Children under 3 are free.

All the costs include tax (GST).

The University will pay 50% of this charge for the enrolled AUT student returning on the Government’s exception pilot as a fee credit when you return.

It is important you are clear about where you will go when you’ve completed your stay at the managed isolation facility.  AUT has summer accommodation which is available from 14 November 2020 to 6 February 2021. The cost is NZD $299 per week (AUT student) + NZD $60 residential life fee (covers events programme and pastoral care).

For more information and help with completing an accommodation application, contact Emiliana Fa’apoi and Scott Pilkington at

Student FAQs

Info for international PhD students outside NZ

Read our latest information for doctoral students enrolled or wanting to enrol from outside New Zealand.

Download COVID-19: international PhD student enrolment

Contact us

For more information, contact us by email:

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