How To Get A Student Visa For New Zealand

by Tina Shantz

While applying for a visa isn’t the most fun part about studying abroad, it’s a necessary component. Luckily, the process for getting a student visa for study abroad in New Zealand is fairly straightforward.

Nugget Point Lighthouse, New Zealand.
Nugget Point Lighthouse, New Zealand. Photo by Tina Shantz

When Do I Need A Visa to Study Abroad in New Zealand?

You don’t need a visa if you’re traveling from the United States to New Zealand and staying for less than three months (such as for a summer program). However, if you’re planning to study abroad in New Zealand for a semester or a full academic year, you will need a student visa. Neither a student visa nor a visitor visa will give you permission to work in New Zealand, even part time; this is only granted by a work visa.

Do I Need a Passport?

When applying for a visa you need to start with your passport. Its expiration date must be at least six months after the day you plan to leave New Zealand. If your passport expires within that time, or even if the date looks close, don’t take chances — apply to renew it right now. If you don’t have a passport, or it isn’t current, go to the U.S. Department of State website to start the application process.

What Supporting Documents Will I Need?

Study abroad students in New Zealand

Study abroad students in New Zealand

Photo by Ashley Houston

Along with your application form, you will need to submit a few documents. Make sure you have all these when you start the application process for a student visa to New Zealand.

  • Valid passport.
  • Two passport-sized color photos - You can usually get these inexpensively at a pharmacy that has a photo studio. Make sure the photos are current (i.e. taken within six months).
  • An official letter from your New Zealand university, stating that you’ll be studying abroad in New Zealand.
  • An official letter from your home university, confirming that: any course fees will be paid either by you or by your New Zealand university and you have sufficient funds to study abroad in New Zealand.
  • Proof that you plan to depart the country - A copy of your departure plane ticket will do.

Where & How Do I Complete the Visa Application?

Every student must fill out the New Zealand student visa application (form 1012). In most cases, you will be applying as a foreign fee-paying student. You should answer all questions that refer to this type of visa. Filling out the visa application is fairly straightforward. If you have questions, contact the study abroad office at your New Zealand university, to make sure you have the most up-to-date information. They may provide additional materials and documents to help you apply for your visa.

New Zealand Māori welcoming the guests

New Zealand Māori welcoming the guests

Photo by Ashley Houston

How Will I Submit & Receive my Visa?

When you’ve completed your New Zealand student visa application, make copies of everything. Then send the visa, with all supporting documents (including your passport) to a New Zealand visa processing center; in the U.S. this is either in Washington D.C. or Santa Monica, CA. Make sure to mail it securely and ensure you have tracking information. Allow three to four weeks for processing.

What Fees Will I Have to Pay?

Fees will include: a courier fee (to ensure your passport is returned) and the Visa Application Center service fee. You can find more information about these fees at the New Zealand Application Center website. Your application will be approved most quickly if you include all documents required with the correct information. Don’t leave any questions blank, and don’t include any extraneous documents. When everything has been approved, your passport will be returned with your visa affixed on an inside page.

Now you can start packing your camera, swimsuit, hiking shoes, and “sunnies”! You’re one crucial step closer to a huge adventure: studying abroad in New Zealand.