The government will allow 1000 foreign students to enter the country from April as part of the recovery plan for international education, it has been announced.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the students must be part-way through a degree or postgraduate course and would have to pay for the cost of their time in managed isolation.
Education providers have been lobbying the government to reopen the border to foreign students, who are worth more than $5 billion a year to the economy.
Hipkins said priority would be given to students who were closest to completing their qualification.
"The students will return to New Zealand in phases, beginning with a cohort of 300 that will be able to return from April, with the remaining students returning throughout the year as MIQ availability allows," he said.
"The return of these students will not affect the ability of Kiwis to return home and it is balanced against the requirement for skilled workers to enter the country. They will be subject to the same border rules and quarantine regime as all other arrivals - with any additional restrictions depending on where they come from."
Hipkins said the government's top priority was the health, safety and wellbeing of all people in New Zealand and it had a responsibility to carefully balance its decisions, to support New Zealand's economic recovery.
"This border exception delivers on a part of the recovery plan for international education. It underscores the government's commitment to the international education sector, which is important in the country's long-term economic recovery from Covid-19," he said.
Hipkins said the students would need to book their space through the allocation system and would be billed the standard charges for managed isolation.
"They also need to be able to do more to support themselves in New Zealand, with the living expenses that are required for international students to be granted a visa now raised to $20,000 - up from $15,000," he said.
He said the annual economic value of 1000 degree-level international students was estimated to be roughly $49 million in wider economic contribution, including approximately $27 million in tuition fees.