Insurance for International Tertiary Learners

Resources and examples

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

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

International tertiary 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 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 learners and education providers and how those obligations intersect with each other.

See the Code of Practice (PDF, 925KB) 

Find immigration instructions in the NZ Operational Manual

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.

Student visa holders

International learners need appropriate insurance as 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.

The Student Visa Guide

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.

Work visa holders

INZ normally does not require 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 website for guidance on eligibility guidance

Contact INZ for more information.

Visitor visa holders

INZ has no insurance requirements.

What do providers need to do?

Minimum specified requirements

Education providers have obligations regarding international learner insurance under Clause 44 (1) of the Code of Practice.

Under the Code of Practice, an education provider (signatory) must ensure “as far as practicable” that international 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 44 (1) sets out the minimum requirements of this insurance.

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

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

Recommendations for good practice

The Code does not specify processes that signatories must follow to comply with Clause 44 (1). Each signatory 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 44 (1) requirements; and
  • clearly asking a learner (or their parents/legal guardians if the student 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’s discretion to enrol an international learner who has an exclusion on their medical insurance for a pre-existing condition.

However, if a signatory chooses to enrol an international 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 learner (Clause 40 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 52 of the Code); and
  • still meet the standard requirements of the Code as for any international 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 22 of the Code (“Proactive monitoring and responsive wellbeing and safety practices”), 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 should form part of the offer of place process and should be clearly communicated to 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), signatories 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 learners 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 learner 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 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 Signatories 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 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 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 learners studying with a signatory 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

[no tuition fees received; enrolled less than two weeks; TEO; tourism after enrolment]

A group of learners aged 16-18 visit a Code signatory tertiary provider for ten days to experience student life, including 8 days of educational instruction and a weekend in a homestay organised by the provider. The provider receives payment for the homestay but not for any tuition services. The learners are visitor-visa holders but the primary purpose of their visit is study. The learners are high school learners coming on a recruitment visit to decide whether they wish to enrol in tertiary studies at this provider. After the time with the provider, the learners undertake some tourist activities in Queenstown, including bungee-jumping.

  • The learners are enrolled for less than two weeks and the TEO is not receiving payment for any tuition services, so these learners do not have to be considered as or enrolled as international learners.
  • The Code of Practice does not apply and the TEO does not have any insurance obligations under the Code of Practice.
  • The TEO may, however, have their own policies for insurance, accommodation, and expectations of behaviour for short-term learners. If so, these should be communicated to the relevant parties, such as agents, learners and their families, as soon as possible.

Example 2

[long-term individual learner; TEO; significant travel in Australia and New Zealand before enrolling with the signatory provider]

A 19-year-old Indonesian international learner intending to study a one-year programme at a Code signatory tertiary provider commencing in March pays his tuition fees in full and is issued a New Zealand student visa in October of the preceding year. The international learner departs Indonesia for Australia in early November, and backpacks around Australia until mid-December. He then arrives in New Zealand for two months’ travel. He settles into accommodation arranged by the tertiary provider a couple of weeks before international enrolment in late February. His international learner contract states that the provider is responsible for his pastoral care from international enrolment until the end of his programme (defined as the last scheduled class, assignment deadline or exam, whichever is the later).

  • The international learner has paid full tuition fees and will be studying with the provider for more than two weeks, so must be enrolled as an international learner.
  • The provider has an arrangement with its preferred insurance company for international learners to receive a ‘backdated’ insurance policy upon enrolment. This policy covers their travel to and within New Zealand for a period of four weeks prior to formal enrolment.
  • In this instance, it is “not practicable” for the provider to ensure Code of Practice appropriate insurance for the international learner’s travel to New Zealand and for some of the travel within New Zealand, as he travelled to
  • New Zealand more than four weeks before the international enrolment day. The provider can, however, ensure Code of Practice appropriate insurance for the international learner for any travel in the four weeks prior to his enrolment in late February.
  • The provider must ensure that the international learner has appropriate insurance until his last day of enrolment as defined in the enrolment contract, and for travel within and from New Zealand (even if this is after the last day of enrolment).
  • The international learner has an obligation under his student visa conditions to ensure that he has insurance for the duration of his student visa.

Example 3

[short-stay international learner; work visa, working holiday scheme; TEO]

A Vietnamese woman in her 20s travels to New Zealand on a working holiday visa. After travelling around New Zealand for a month, she enrols in an English language school for four weeks’ intensive English-language training. After her studies, she continues travelling around New Zealand, taking odd jobs in bars, cafes and on farms.

  • This international learner is studying with the Code signatory provider for more than two weeks and paying full fees, so she must be enrolled as an international learner.
  • The provider must ensure that the international learner has Code of Practice appropriate insurance for the four weeks during which she is enrolled. As a working holiday visa holder from Vietnam, the international learner should already have insurance, so the provider will need to check that her insurance policy complies with the requirements of the Code of Practice.
  • In this instance, it was not practicable for the provider to have ensured that the woman had cover for her travel to and within New Zealand, as the provider did not know she was planning to travel to New Zealand or that she was in New Zealand until just before her course commenced.
  • The provider also decides that it is not practicable to ensure Code appropriate insurance cover for the international learner after her period of enrolment has ceased as she will be travelling around New Zealand with no enduring relationship to the provider.
  • The provider makes clear in the enrolment contract that it takes no responsibility for the international learner’s insurance cover beyond the last day of enrolment.
  • The signatory documents all the above in their file for the international learner.

Further information

Email the Code team if you have any questions or concerns.

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