The ultimate guide to your New Zealand student visa

Applying for a New Zealand student visa is one of the most important steps before moving here to study. 

Study in New Zealand is an incredibly popular choice for students. Gorgeous scenery, wonderful cities, friendly people, and work and educational opportunities make the country a great choice for higher education. 

However, you will need to get your visa application right before progressing to study in the country. Although this can seem a lot at first, if you take the specific steps and plan ahead, you can get through the visa application with no problems. 

We want to make sure you can do this as simply and smoothly as possible. To help with the visa application, we’ve put together your ultimate step-by-step guide below.

What is a New Zealand student visa?

A New Zealand student visa is a government document that authorises international students to enter the country to study. 

All international students need to get a student visa. However, the type of student visa will vary based on the course duration and the means of payment.

What types of student visas are available?

At present, you will have a few different options when it comes to choosing the visa that suits your requirements. Mostly, this choice will depend on your course, its duration and your needs as a student. 

If you are unsure about what visa you need, check out our overview of each option below. 

Fee-paying student visa

You need to apply for a fee-paying student visa if you are pursuing a full-term course with a duration of more than three months at a New Zealand university.

With this type of visa, you can work for up to 20 hours a week during school weeks and full time during holidays.

Pathway student visa

Alternative, you can apply for a pathway student visa to pursue more than one full term course. You can choose up to three consecutive full-term courses and stay in New Zealand for 5 years to finish them with this visa type.

Exchange student visa

You need to apply for an exchange student visa if you plan to go to New Zealand to pursue a pre-approved student exchange program at a university recognised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authorities. The duration of your course can be a maximum of 4 years.

Foreign government-supported student visa

You can apply for a foreign government-supported student visa if you plan to study a full-time course with a duration of more than 3 months and less than 4 years. Your educational expenses need to be covered by a scholarship or a loan from a foreign country’s government.

Note: If you are going to study a course with a duration of less than 3 months, you don't need to get a study visa. You can just use your visitor visa in this case.

Also Read: Study a Bachelor’s in New Zealand

How to apply for a New Zealand Student visa

Then, once you are certain about what visa you need for your course and needs, you can begin the application process. 

At first, this seems like a lot of work. But, when you break it down into steps, the whole procedure is quick and easy. In addition, the more prepared you are and the sooner you start your application, the easier the whole process is.

Our step-by-step guide below tells you what to do at each stage of the application. 

1. Student visa New Zealand: The prep work

 Firstly, as soon as you get a course offer from your university, start planning and preparing. Ultimately, if you apply early, you can overcome any potential issues quickly so you can get back to focusing on your studies. 

To get started, request an application form. Currently, you can do this in person by heading to a New Zealand embassy. Alternatively, you can complete your entire application online. Most people find applying online the most straightforward option.

As part of your preparations, make sure you’re applying at least eight weeks before you plan to come to New Zealand. However, it will pay off to get all your paperwork ready much before this. You are much more likely to get a quicker decision if you have all your documents to hand, so read through all the information carefully and obtain all the necessary certificates, scans and copies well in advance.

2. Pay any New Zealand student visa fees

As part of your application, you must pay the appropriate fees. Presently, New Zealand student visa fees differ depending on how you apply and where you’re applying from. 

Usually, the most common visa that international students use is the “fee-paying student visa”. This costs around NZ $295 (that’s roughly GBP 150 or $200 US Dollars).

But it’s sometimes cheaper to apply for visas via post depending on your nationality. Therefore, you can use fee-checking tools online to make sure you aren’t paying more than you need. 

Remember that you won’t get a refund of your fees if your application is turned down. As a result, you should make sure you have all your details and documents available the first time around. If you are unsure about exactly which documents and information you need, check out our complete checklist below.

To make sure your application is approved, it’s vital to understand all the requirements asked of international students.

3. Understand all the visa requirements

During your application, you must be aware of the few essential New Zealand student visa requirements. 

  • For a New Zealand study visa, you must receive a formal academic offer from an educational institution. This must be approved by the Ministry of Education in New Zealand, or a course approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
  • Either you or your guardian will need to provide evidence you can pay your tuition fees. Usually, these are NZ $20,000-30,000 per year for international students. Alternatively, you’ll need to prove you’ve been offered a scholarship or grant by your chosen institution, to cover these costs.
  • You’ll also have to prove that you’ve got enough money to live whilst you’re in the country. Financial evidence can come from either yourself or a parent/guardian. But you’ll need at least NZ $15,000 to support yourself for the first year.
  • There are several other important New Zealand student visa requirements. For instance, you need; a copy of your air ticket home (or proof that you have enough money to buy one), a supporting letter, medical certificates and accommodation guarantees for anyone under 18. 

4. The New Zealand student visa process: Steps to Success

There’s a fixed process for New Zealand study visa applications. Let’s take a look at some of the key steps.

Complete your application form carefully 

Make sure you’ve accurately and fully entered all your information and provided scans or copies of all documents requested. This is a vital first step to that coveted New Zealand study visa, and an important part to get right.

Discuss potential issues as soon as possible

To receive a New Zealand student visa, you have to be of “good character”. Ultimately, this means you should have no criminal convictions. If you have convictions and want to stay in New Zealand for more than 24 months, police clearances may be necessary. 

In this case, a representative from the New Zealand government will help you figure out the process. As this can add time to your application, it’s best to raise any potential issues as soon as possible. 

Be prepared for an interview

As part of the application process, you may have to attend an interview. This is used to assess your eligibility for the New Zealand study visa. Often, the interview takes place over a video or phone call. 

These types of interviews are not designed to trick or catch you out. Mostly, an officer will ask a series of questions about you and your studies. For instance, they will cover where you want to study, what you’re learning, what your plans are and any future career aspirations.

While interviews can be difficult, this visa interview is easy if you prepare properly. You can prepare by reviewing the reasons why you want to study in New Zealand. Also, be sure about where your finances are coming from and your course. 

To succeed in the interview, answer these questions slowly and truthfully and make sure you explain yourself clearly.

5. Final steps: Awaiting your decision

Usually, the New Zealand student visa process takes around four to five weeks from start to finish. Therefore, you need to leave enough time before your course begins to get everything sorted. We recommend applying with at least two months to spare.

If more information or clarifications are required, the New Zealand Immigration department will let you know, but at this point. Also, If you applied online, you’ll usually receive an eVisa once your application has been approved.

Print this out and keep it on your mobile, so you can show it easily at the border when you arrive. You can also ask immigration services to put a label on your passport. But this comes with additional charges.

 If you’re planning on studying in New Zealand, there are plenty of resources available for organising your trip and finding out more about student life in New Zealand. It’s a truly fantastic country and a great destination for international students.


Even before you start your New Zealand visa application, check that you have the following items. Failure to provide these can slow your application process down and leave you with little time to correct errors if they come up.

As a result, get these documents ready as soon as you receive your university offer.

  • A passport that is valid for at least 3 months after the end of your course.
  • Two passport size photographs of your head and shoulders.
  • Letter of acceptance from a university authorised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
  • A letter from the police department of your home country as proof of your character.
  • Bank statements proving that you have enough money to pay for tuition and to support yourself during your studies.
  • Medical examination reports testing for infectious diseases.
  • Medical insurance documents proving that you are covered for the duration of your stay.