Insurance for international school learners

Resources and examples

Any and all material supplied in this page is supplied as an EXAMPLE ONLY and will not necessarily be appropriate for a signatory's particular circumstances.

All documents used should be approved by a signatory's governing board and independent legal advice should also be sought.

International school learners and their education providers may have obligations regarding insurance.

For international learners, these obligations are set out in Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ) immigration instructions (statements of government policy which set out the rules and criteria that people who want to come to New Zealand must meet to be granted a visa or entry permission).

Education providers who wish to enrol international school learners must be signatories to the Education (Pastoral Care of Tertiary and International Learners) Code of Practice 2021 (the Code of Practice) and the obligations for education providers regarding insurance are set out in the Code of Practice.

This note provides specific guidance on obligations for both international students and education providers and how those obligations intersect with each other.

Read the Code of Practice (PDF, 925KB)

Read the INZ Operational Manual for immigration instructions

What do international learners need to do

International learners’ insurance obligations depend on the type of visa the learner holds while enrolled with an education provider.

For student visa holders

Student visa holders need to have appropriate insurance. It is a condition of their visa.

Student visa applicants must declare that they will make the necessary arrangements to hold insurance which complies with the Code of Practice and that is considered acceptable by their education provider, from the period of their enrolment until the expiry of their student visa.

When you need to finalise insurance

The Student Visa Guide (INZ 1013) explains that INZ recognises that learners often arrange insurance through their education provider once they have arrived in New Zealand and the enrolment process has been completed.

A learner needs to hold insurance from the date the enrolment process is finalised with an education provider.

For work visa holders

Work visa holders don't normally need insurance unless they apply under a specific work visa category for which this is a requirement.

Some work visa holders will be eligible for publicly-funded health services. This covers the Code of Practice requirement for medical care in New Zealand but not the other three aspects that the Code of Practice states must be covered (travel, repatriation, death).

See the Ministry of Health’s eligibility guidance

You can also contact INZ for more information.

For visitor visa holders

Visitor visa holders do not need insurance.

What do providers need to do?

Minimum specified requirements

Signatory schools have obligations regarding international learners insurance under Clause 65 (1) of the Code of Practice.

Under the Code of Practice, a signatory schools must ensure “as far as practicable” that international school learners, including learners travelling in a group, have “appropriate insurance” while enrolled with a signatory for educational instruction of two weeks’ duration or longer. Clause 16 (5) sets out the minimum requirements of this insurance.

During the period of enrolment (as defined in the international school learner contract) this obligation remains the same for all signatories, regardless of the type of visa held by the international learner.

For international school learners studying with a signatory school for less than two weeks’ duration, there is no obligation on the signatory school to ensure any insurance coverage.

Recommendations for good practice

The Code does not specify processes that signatory schools must follow to comply with Clause 65 (1). Each school needs to confirm its own processes.

NZQA’s expectation is that “ensuring as far as practicable” will include processes for:

  • checking that a learner has cover for the minimum Clause 65 (1) requirements; and
  • clearly asking a learner (or their parents/legal guardians if the learner is under 18) whether they have any pre-existing conditions (to make sure that the insurance offered is “appropriate”. This question may also be asked by the insurance company); and
  • if a pre-existing condition is disclosed by a learner/parent, considering whether an additional premium can and should be paid to have the pre-existing condition covered and if so, determining whether the learner (or parents/legal guardians if the learner is under 18) should be required to pay this premium as part of their insurance (making sure the insurance is “appropriate” to the learner’s needs); and
  • advising all learners (or parents/legal guardians of learners under 18) of the limitations of their insurance policy (there are some things insurance policies do not cover, regardless of whether there is a pre-existing condition); and
  • making all learners (or parents/legal guardians of learners under 18) aware that they will be responsible for any costs not covered by insurance.

Enrolling an international learner with a pre-existing condition

It is at a signatory school’s discretion to enrol an international school learner who has an exclusion on their medical insurance for a pre-existing condition.

However, if a signatory school chooses to enrol an international school learner who has an exclusion on their medical insurance for a pre-existing condition, the signatory must:

  • ensure that the learner’s programme is appropriate for the student (Clause 61 of the Code of Practice); and
  • have obtained written agreement from the parent or legal guardian of a learner about any decisions made that affect an international learner under 18 years (Clause 66 and 75 (1) (b) of the Code); and
  • still meet the standard requirements of the Code as for any international school learner, including taking “all reasonable steps” to protect the learner’s safety and wellbeing (Clause 534 (2) (b) of the Education and Training Act 2020).

In this instance, NZQA’s expectation is that “reasonable steps” will include:

  • assessing any risk to be confident that there are appropriate measures in place to ensure that the learner will be well-supported in their study, have access to any additional support required as per Clause 75 of the Code (“international school learners at risk or with additional learning  needs”), and that the condition will not unduly impede the learner’s study; and
  • making it clear to the learner (and their parents or legal guardians if they are under 18) that they must cover any costs arising from the excluded condition.

Such assessment by a signatory school should form part of the offer of place process and should be clearly communicated to international learners.

Ensure learners have the right insurance for travel

If learners’ travel to, from, or within New Zealand occurs outside the enrolment period (as defined in the international learner contract), signatory schools must ensure “as far as practicable” that the travel is covered by Code of Practice appropriate insurance.

The intent of this clause of the Code of Practice is to ensure that international students have Code of Practice appropriate insurance coverage from the day they leave their home country to the day they depart New Zealand to return home. This is to effectively manage risk to the safety and wellbeing of an international learners embarking on study in New Zealand. 

This intent is reflected in INZ’s requirements for student visa holders (see above).

For international learners studying with a signatory school for two weeks or longer, who are student visa holders (or holders of other visa types whose primary reason for visiting New Zealand is study), it is expected that it will be “practicable”, in most instances, for signatory schools to ensure that these learners have Code of Practice appropriate insurance for travel to, from, and within New Zealand, even if the travel occurs outside the enrolment period.

In an instance where it is not “practicable”, a signatory school should document the steps they have taken to ensure “appropriate insurance” and at which point it was no longer practicable to do so and why.

For non-student visa holders, i.e. learners who are holders of visitor, work, working holiday or other types of visas, and for whom study is not the primary purpose of visiting New Zealand, it is unlikely to be “practicable”, in most instances, for a signatory school to ensure appropriate insurance for travel to, from, and within New Zealand outside of the enrolment period. Again, this aligns with INZ’s requirements for holders of these visa types (see above).

For international school learners studying with a signatory school for less than two weeks’ duration, there is no obligation on the provider to ensure Code of Practice appropriate insurance.

Example scenarios

The following scenarios demonstrate how the above guidance should be applied.

Example 1

[less than two weeks, education agent organising accommodation, tourist activities during and after enrolment, tuition fees received]

An education agent approaches a signatory school to host twenty 12-13 year-old international learners for five school days, as part of a three-week trip to New Zealand. The education agent has requested the signatory school focus on ESOL, and will pay the usual weekly rate per learner. The education agent has said that they will organise the accommodation, and that the signatory school only needs to be responsible for the learners while attending classes. The international school learners will also be undertaking tourist activities, both while at the school and before and after enrolment.

  • As the international school learners are enrolled for less than two weeks, the Code of Practice does not require the Signatory to ensure that the international students have insurance (Clause 61).
  • The school signatory may, however, have their own policies about insurance for short-term international school learners. If so, these should be communicated to the education agent as soon as possible.

Example 2

[sister school relationship, learners are participating in a weekend school trip, tourism after enrolment]

A signatory school has a “sister school” relationship with a school in Japan. Each year, the Japanese school sends 8 learners, aged 14-15, to the school for 6 weeks, accompanied by their class teacher. The Japanese school makes one payment to cover the whole group. The international school learners go on a school ski trip over a long weekend after the third week, and at the end of their educational instruction, have a weekend in Auckland before they fly home.

  • The learners are enrolled for more than two weeks and the signatory school is receiving payment, so these learners must be enrolled as international school learners and are covered by the Code of Practice.
  • The signatory school must ensure, as far as practicable, that the learners have appropriate insurance which covers their travel to and from New Zealand, and within New Zealand, i.e. the tourist activity (the ski trip and the weekend in Auckland, even if the signatory school has decided the Auckland weekend is outside the period of enrolment/educational instruction).
  • Even if the signatory school has decided that the weekend in Auckland sits outside the period of educational instruction, and that it is, therefore, not responsible for pastoral care of the learners under the Code of Practice for that weekend, the Code of Practice still requires that signatories ensure that, as far as practicable, learners have appropriate insurance. In this case, it is “practicable” to ensure that the learners have appropriate insurance for the Auckland weekend, as the trip is immediately after the period of educational instruction. 

Further information

If you have any questions or concerns email the Code team

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