Government allows children in limbo to enrol at local schools

  • Hon Chris Hipkins

School-age children from overseas who are unable to leave New Zealand due to COVID-19 will be allowed to go to local schools as temporary domestic students for the rest of 2020, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

The children are between five to 18 years old and have been unable to attend school because of their international status.

“A number of these young people are from the Pacific Islands, along with other nations, and were visiting family when the pandemic made it difficult or impossible to get flights back home,” Chris Hipkins said.

“These children will have missed out on, in many cases, months of learning.

“By allowing them to attend our state schools as domestic students, we are doing the right thing for these families so their children can get their studies and development back on track.

“For many of them, it means that they can now get out the door in the morning with other family members who already attend the local school.”

The exact number of children affected is not known, but it’s expected that the school roll could grow by up to 1300 students from countries around the world for the remainder of the year.

“Most of the children were visiting here in New Zealand - either with their parents or staying with family – and cannot afford to pay fees as international students.  

“That’s why we will be welcoming them as domestic students until the end of the year. 

“We expect the additional students to be spread around schools throughout New Zealand, with some concentration in cities such as Auckland and Wellington.

“This is a busy time of the year for schools and students but I know that teachers, school leaders and other students will do their very best to make the new students feel welcome,” Chris Hipkins said.


What are the eligibility criteria?

  • To be eligible, children must:
    • Have arrived before 2 April 2020
    • Hold a valid visa
    • Be living with family
    • Not have arrived in New Zealand intending to enrol as a fee-paying international student
    • Not have been already enrolled and paying fees as an international student

How many children are involved?

  • The Ministry of Education expects the maximum total increase in domestic enrolments to be up to approximately 1,290 children for the one remaining school term. This accounts for 250 students assumed to already be enrolled as international fee paying students according to Ministry enrolment data.
  • The regional distribution of these children is unknown, as Immigration New Zealand does not collect information on where visa holders are located. Anecdotal reports from regional offices indicates that these children are located all across New Zealand, but are clustered in denser urban centres e.g. Auckland.
What are the numbers of children, by country of origin?
Table 1: high-level breakdown of children and young people in New Zealand on visitor visas (as of 6 August 2020)
Region of origin Number of children and young people on visitor visas currently in New Zealand As a percentage of the total
Pacific 309 20.1%
Other Asia 221 14.4%
Europe* 210 13.6%
North America* 173 11.2%
India 137 8.9%
Africa 131 8.5%
China 121 7.9%
South Korea/Japan/Malaysia
109 7.1%
South America 81 5.3%
Middle East 32 2.1%
Australia 14 0.9%
Unknown 2 0.1%
TOTAL 1,540 100%

*Individuals from the countries/regions denoted are eligible for a visa waiver which means they do not need to apply for a visitor visa before they travel to New Zealand. Instead they receive it on arrival. Once in New Zealand any visitor visa extensions are treated the same for both categories.

How will schools manage the demand?

  • We do not expect demand to be great at the individual school level. Although the regional distribution of these children is not known, information from regional offices indicates they spread around New Zealand, with some clusters in urban centres.
  • If a school’s enrolments increase by the number needed to receive additional funding, they can access this through the Extraordinary Roll Growth process.
  • Where there is an increase in a school’s roll, and the conditions for enrolment are met, staffing will be recalculated using the new roll.
  • These are existing processes for funding and staffing that apply when schools’ rolls increase. Schools are already familiar with these processes.

More information can be found at: