Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
26th Jul 2023

New Zealand: Foreign enrolment approaching 60% of pre-pandemic volumes

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • Compared to 2018/19 as a baseline, student visa applications in New Zealand have recovered to nearly 60% of pre-COVID levels as of July 2023
  • Application volumes remain heavy this year and Immigration New Zealand continues to advise all students to apply well in advance of their planned programme starts

Year-to-date figures released 5 July 2023 indicate that the volume of applications for New Zealand study visas is nearing 60% of pre-COVID levels. The reporting period for New Zealand runs from 1 July to 30 June each year and so the latest Immigration New Zealand (INZ) numbers provide data for nearly the full 2022/23 fiscal year. This includes the key period from 31 July 2022 on, at which point the country's borders fully reopened to international students.

For the year up to 5 July 2023, INZ reports a total of 53,428 student visa applications, of which 47,057 (88%) were approved. We'll use 2018/19, the last full year before the onset of the pandemic, as our pre-COVID baseline. INZ reports 89,096 student visa applications for that year, with 82,176 (92%) approved.

This means that the current volume of approved applications represents just over 57% of that 2018/19 baseline. This is not the whole story in terms of the current level of inbound student mobility as there will be many students in New Zealand for language studies or other short-term courses who are not travelling on student visas. But it nevertheless provides an important indicator of the extent to which the foreign enrolment in the country is rebounding .

Apart from applications, INZ's latest data (also from 5 July 2023) show that 46,680 first-time student visas were granted for 2022/23. This is in fact slightly higher than the 46,249 first-time visas granted in 2018/19, and (not surprisingly given the extended border closures) a nearly 40,000 student increase year-over-year.

Finally, INZ is also reporting on the volume of student visa applications lodged by offshore students (that is, by students applying from outside of New Zealand). This captures a slightly larger portion of the year as it reports through 11 July 2023, indicating a total of 43,541 offshore applications of which 37,916 have been processed with 32,457 of those approved.

As has been the case after border reopening in most study destinations, INZ is also reporting some visa processing delays with the higher volumes this year. The agency cautions that:

"Unfortunately we have received many applications submitted only a few weeks before the student intends to commence study in New Zealand.

Students should apply for their visas around four months ahead of intended travel, and at least two months ahead of intended travel. We cannot prioritise late applications ahead of students who have applied in good time. Unfortunately, some students who apply late may miss their start date.

Please remember that students should not confirm travel bookings until the visa is granted."

Students are also encouraged to consult the latest information on visa processing times when planning their programmes in New Zealand.

For additional background, please see:

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