Provider responsibilities for international students

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This guidance should be read in conjunction with:

Is the student an international student?

The first step in determining responsibility is to determine whether the student is an international student.

Depending on the exact situation, a student could be:

an international student

a domestic student

a student visitor or short-term visitor

an exchange student

The Act defines as international student as "...at any time, means a person who is not then a domestic student"

Defined in The Act as "...at any time, means a person who is then-

(a) a New Zealand citizen; or

(b) the holder of a residence class visa granted under the Immigration Act 2009 who satisfies the criteria (if any) prescribed by regulations made under subsection (4); or

(c) a person of a class or description of persons required by the Minister, by notice in the Gazette, to be treated as if they are not international students.

Contact the Ministry of Education (MoE)

Contact the MoE

Under Section 238EA of the Act, if a student is by definition an international student and they are enrolling at any provider (school, institution or registered private training establishment) and are enrolling for more than two weeks or tuition fees are paid, then the student must be enrolled as an international student.

Genuine donations/koha or payments to cover, for example, the same items that domestic students pay for (for example, optional special off-site activities that do not involve tuition) would not be considered tuition fees, and would not make the student an international student.

This note focuses on students who are enrolled as international students under the Act. For more information on short-term visitors and exchange students (or for assistance as to whether such students are international students or not), please contact the Ministry of Education.

Fundamental provider responsibilities for students enrolled as international students

  • Providers have responsibilities under both the Act and the Code of Practice for students they have enrolled as international students.
  • The period of enrolment is defined by the beginning and end dates of enrolment specified in the international student contract (Clause 16 (4) of the Code).
  • Under section 238E of the Act a provider must be a signatory to the Code of Practice to be able to enrol international students (signatory or signatories).
  • While many signatories are keen to enrol international students, and a lot actively seek to do so, there is no obligation on any signatory to accept an international student, or any group of international students.
  • Once a signatory enrols an international student, the signatory must comply with all relevant sections of the Act and the Code of Practice.
  • The requirements of the Code of Practice apply to all international students enrolled with a signatory, regardless of the type of student, the visa they hold, and/or the situation in which the signatory is enrolling them.
  • However, signatories may need to think differently about some parts of the Code of Practice and what is required to achieve the Code of Practice outcomes in each different situation.
  • It is important to consider which approach would most reflect the purpose of the Code of Practice “requiring signatories to take all reasonable steps to protect their international students and ensuring, as far as possible, that their international students have a positive student experience”.
  • A signatory is only responsible for an international student’s pastoral care under the Code of Practice during the period of enrolment as defined in the international student contract (Clause 16 (4) of the Code).
  • Whatever the situation, it is important that signatories, agents, international students, and (if the international student is under 18) their parents/legal guardians are very clear on responsibilities prior to enrolment.
  • There are other outcomes in the Code of Practice which relate to a signatories’ obligations outside the enrolment period. For example, Outcome 1 Marketing and Promotion relates to obligations to prospective international students.

Enrolment

For individual or group international students, it is important to be very clear about the beginning and end dates of enrolment, particularly when this does not correspond to the dates the international students are in New Zealand (e.g. there is a week of tourist activity before or after the period of enrolment; the international student intends to study with you for one month then remain in New Zealand on a work holiday visa).

International students and (if the international students are under 18) their parents/legal guardians should have clear information about when they are in the care of a signatory, and when this responsibility ends (Clause 16 (3) (4) of the Code of Practice). 

For international students under the age of 18, it is a Code of Practice requirement to receive written confirmation from a parent or legal guardian regarding the transfer of care at the end of enrolment (Clause 23 (1) (e) of the Code of Practice).

International student activity outside the enrolment period

A signatory is only responsible under the Code of Practice for those student activities that are part of the enrolment period, as defined in the international student enrolment contract.

A signatory may make a business decision to take responsibility for its international students beyond the enrolment period, and may have obligations under other legislation or regulations, but there is no obligation under the Code of Practice to do so.

The one exception to this is regarding some aspects of international student insurance. See the section on insurance below and the joint MoE-NZQA-INZ note entitled International Student Insurance.

Group/short stay students

There are no longer any specific requirements in the Code of Practice in relation to group students, and no special approvals are required.

However, international students travelling in a group to study for a short period may have quite a different programme to an individual, long-term international student. What a signatory does to achieve certain outcomes for a group of students may be different to what it does for an individual student.

Whatever the situation, it is important that signatories, agents, students and (if the students are under 18) their parents/legal guardians are very clear on responsibilities.

Some agents may request that international students under 10 years of age come as part of the group. However, students aged under 10 years must be living with parents or legal guardians. They cannot live with any other form of residential caregiver, or in temporary accommodation with a supervisor. The only exception to this is when these students are accommodated in a school hostel, which is a type of hostel that must be individually approved by NZQA as the Code of Practice Administrator (see ‘school hostel’ definition, Clause 7 of the Code of Practice).

The MoE has provided some information and guidelines to assist you when hosting short-term international visitors. See also MoE’s ENROL guidelines for group international students, which includes instructions on how to register a group of international students.

Agents

Although a signatory has ultimate responsibility for Code of Practice compliance and this responsibility cannot be subcontracted in its entirety, a signatory can contract an agent to provide some aspects of pastoral care.

The signatory must, however, ensure that they are confident the agent is doing this properly and have checks in place. This includes not only recruitment services, but also where the agent is providing accommodation, translating for parents, mediating any difficulties with the international student, or any other services.

A signatory must ensure, for example, that any accommodation arranged by an agent complies with the Code of Practice and that the appropriate checks and supports are in place before the international student’s arrival. Each signatory will develop its own processes for achieving this, which may include specifying requirements for accommodation in the agent contract, monitoring that contract through on-the-ground accommodation spot checks, or monitoring of an international student’s welfare and satisfaction.

Insurance

Minimum specified requirements

Education providers have obligations regarding international student insurance under Clause 16 (5) of the Code of Practice.

Under the Code of Practice, an education provider (signatory) must ensure “as far as practicable” that international students, including students 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 student contract) this obligation remains the same for all signatories, regardless of the type of visa held by the international student.

For international students 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 16 (5). 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 student has cover for the minimum Clause 16 (5) requirements; and
  • clearly asking a student (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 student/parent, considering whether an additional premium can and should be paid to have the pre-existing condition covered and if so, determining whether the student (or parents/legal guardians if the student is under 18) should be required to pay this premium as part of their insurance (making sure the insurance is “appropriate” to the student’s needs); and
  • advising all students (or parents/legal guardians of students 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 students (or parents/legal guardians of students under 18) aware that they will be responsible for any costs not covered by insurance.

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

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

  • ensure that the student’s programme is appropriate for the student (Clause 16 (2) of the Code of Practice); and
  • have obtained written agreement from the parent or legal guardian of a student about any decisions made that affect an international student under 18 years (Clause 16 (6) and 25 (1) (b) of the Code); and
  • still meet the standard requirements of the Code as for any international student, including taking “all reasonable steps” to protect the student’s safety and wellbeing (Clause 5 (a) of the Code).

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 student will be well-supported in their study, have access to any additional support required as per Clause 25 of the Code (“international students at risk or with special needs”), and that the condition will not unduly impede the student’s study; and
  • making it clear to the student (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 students.

If student travel to, from, or within New Zealand occurs outside the enrolment period (as defined in the student 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 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 student embarking on study in New Zealand. When the opportunity arises, the current wording of the Code at Clause 16 (5) will be clarified and aligned with any related immigration instructions to better reflect the intent of the Code.

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

For international students 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 students 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. students 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 students 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.

1. Group of students attending a school for less than two weeks (accommodation organised and tourist activities)

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

  • Although the international students are only there for five days, the school is receiving payment so the international students must be enrolled as international students and they are covered by the Code of Practice. (Section 238EA of the Education Act 1989).
  • The school needs to be clear about the period of enrolment, with clear start and end dates specified in a written contract between the school and each international student’s parent or legal guardian (as the international students are under 18 years of age). (Clause 16 (4) of the Code of Practice).
  • Even if the agent is organising accommodation, the school needs to ensure that the accommodation meets Code of Practice requirements. (Clauses 21-26 of the Code of Practice).
  • If the international students are staying in temporary accommodation with the agent, the school needs to be sure that the group is properly supervised (Clause 23 (1) (a) (i) of the Code of Practice).
  • As the international students are enrolled for less than two weeks, the Code of Practice does not require them to have insurance. (Clause 16 (5)). However, the school may have their own policies about insurance for short-term students. If so, these should be communicated to the agent as soon as possible.
  • The school is not required to be responsible for the tourist activities before and after the period of enrolment. However, they are responsible for the students during the period of enrolment, and should make sure that the international students are in a properly supervised group for any tourist activities (e.g. in the evenings after school) (Clause 23 (1) (a) (i)).
  • As with any other international student, the school should ensure that the educational instruction on offer is in accordance with the Act and is appropriate for the international students’ expectations, English language proficiency, and academic capability (Clause 16 (2)).

2. Students on weekend trip to a sister school (homestay and tourism)

A New Zealand school which is a signatory has a sister school relationship with a school in Japan. Each year, the Japanese school sends 8 international students, aged 14-15, to the New Zealand school for 6 weeks, accompanied by their class teacher. The Japanese school makes one payment to cover the whole group. The international students stay with families of students learning Japanese who volunteer to host (some of whom are not regular homestay families). The international students go on the school ski trip over a long weekend after the third week, and have a weekend in Auckland before they fly home.

  • The international students are enrolled for more than two weeks and the school is receiving payment, so these students must be enrolled as international students and are covered by the Code of Practice.
  • The school needs to be clear about whether the period of enrolment includes the weekend in Auckland or not. In making that decision, the school should consider that:
    • there is no obligation under the Code of Practice to include this weekend as part of the enrolment period, and therefore to assume responsibility and provide care during this time; and
    • as the students will have supervision from their Japanese class teacher, the school could opt to request parents of the international students to give written confirmation that care will be passed to the Japanese teacher at the end of the enrolment.
  • The school needs to be clear about the transfer of care arrangements for each international student at the end of the period of enrolment. For example, transfer of care arrangements might be made clear in the individual international student contract or, in the case of a sister school relationship, the MOU (with written confirmation from each parent as per Clause 23 (1) (e)).
  • Accommodation must be in line with Code of Practice requirements – all homestays must be checked, monitored and supported as per standard processes for international students (even though they are volunteering).
  • The school must ensure, as far as practicable, that the international students 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 though this may fall outside the period of enrolment).
  • Even if the 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 international students under the Code of Practice for that weekend, the Code of Practice still requires that the school ensures that, as far as practicable, the international students have Code of Practice appropriate insurance. In this case, it is “practicable” to ensure that the international students have Code of Practice appropriate insurance for the Auckland weekend, as the trip is immediately after the period of educational instruction.
  • It may not be practicable for a signatory to ensure insurance cover in other scenarios, for example in the case of an individual international student remaining in New Zealand for 4 months after study. In such cases, signatories should document the steps they have taken to ensure Code of Practice appropriate insurance and at which point it was no longer practicable to do so, and why.
  • Usual processes for Education Outside The Classroom (EOTC) school trips should apply for the ski trip weekend, as it is organised by the school.
  • Other trips (for example with host families) should follow the standard processes for international students.

3. The age of students

An agent has arranged a visit of fifteen 11-12-year-old international students to attend a signatory school as fee-paying international students for three weeks. The school is in the process of finalising the arrangements when they receive the list of international students and notice that one student is under 10 years old.

  • In addition to all the other Code of Practice requirements, the school needs to carefully consider the accommodation needs of the under 10-year-old student.
  • Is the student being accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, or can the school provide accommodation in a school hostel? If not, the school must refuse the enrolment of that student.

4. Student at a tertiary education provider for less than two weeks (no tuition fees given, tourism)

A group of international students aged 16-18 visit a signatory tertiary education provider for ten days to experience student life, including eight 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 international students are visitor-visa holders but the primary purpose of their visit is study. The international students are high-school students 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 international students undertake some tourist activities in Queenstown, including bungee-jumping.

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

5. Long-term student at a tertiary education provider (travel before enrolling)

A 19-year-old Indonesian man intending to study a one-year programme at a signatory tertiary education 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 man 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 provider a couple of weeks before international enrolment in late February. His international student 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 student has paid full tuition fees and will be studying with the provider for more than two weeks, so he must be enrolled as an international student.
  • However, the provider is not responsible for the international student under the Code of Practice until the international enrolment process has been completed, as this is the start date for his enrolment period as specified in his international student contract.
  • The provider may make a business decision to assume responsibility for the international student from the day he begins living in the provider’s accommodation. This responsibility and the relevant responsibilities of the international student may be articulated in a separate accommodation agreement between the international student and the provider.
  • The provider has no responsibility for the international student’s travel outside New Zealand, i.e. from Indonesia to Australia and around Australia.
  • The provider has an arrangement with its preferred insurance company for international students 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 students travel to New Zealand and for some of the travel within New Zealand, as he travelled to New Zealand some time before the international enrolment day.
  • The provider is able to ensure Code of Practice appropriate insurance for the international student for any travel in the four weeks prior to his enrolment in late February.
  • The provider must ensure that the international student 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 student has an obligation under his student visa conditions to ensure that he has insurance for the duration of his student visa.

6. Short-stay student at a tertiary education provider on a work visa and working holiday scheme

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 a signatory 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.

  • The international student is studying with the provider for more than two weeks and paying full fees, so she must be enrolled as an international student.
  • The provider must ensure that the international student has Code of Practice appropriate insurance for the four weeks during which she is enrolled. As a working holiday visa holder from Vietnam, she 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 international student 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 of Practice appropriate insurance cover for the international student 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 student’s insurance cover, or any other Code-related obligations, beyond the last day of enrolment.
  • The provider documents all the above in the international students file.

7. High-school graduate transitioning to a tertiary education provider (travelling in New Zealand for summer holidays)

A 17-year-old male Chinese international student has just completed his last day of enrolment with a signatory secondary school, as defined in his international student contract as “the last scheduled class, assignment deadline or exam, whichever is the later”. The international student plans to commence studies with a tertiary education provider in a different region in New Zealand in the new year. Rather than returning home, however, he has decided to remain in New Zealand for the summer to travel and pick up casual work.

  • The international student is no longer enrolled with the school because he has finished his last day of enrolment, as defined in the international student contract. 
  • As he is under 18, the school, however, must ensure it receives written confirmation from the international student’s parents or legal guardian regarding the plan for handing over his care at the end of enrolment.
  • The school can receive this written confirmation via (i.e. forwarded by) an agent, but the actual confirmation must be, in writing, from a parent or legal guardian of the student.
  • The school will have made obligations clear to all relevant parties prior to the international student’s enrolment (Outcome 3, Clause 15 (b) of the Code of Practice), for example when the school would be taking responsibility and when it would not, and what students/parents’ roles and responsibilities would be during and at the end of enrolment. These roles and responsibilities may be outlined in the international student’s contract.
  • Under the Code of Practice, the school has no obligation to provide pastoral care to the student after the last day of enrolment.
  • Although the international student is no longer enrolled with the school, the school must still ensure ‘as far as practicable” that he has insurance covering travel to, from and within New Zealand.
  • In this instance, because the school knows the international student is remaining in New Zealand on a student visa which does not expire until March of the following year, and Code of Practice appropriate insurance is a condition of his visa, it is “practicable” for the school to check that the international student’s insurance policy covers him to the end of his student visa.
  • The tertiary education provider with which the international student is due to study is not responsible for him under the Code of Practice until the international enrolment process has been completed, as this is the start date for his enrolment period as specified in his international student contract with this provider. The provider’s insurance policy may, however, be one which automatically covers the international student (once enrolled as a student) for the 4 weeks prior to enrolment.
  • Both the provider and the school may wish to ask the international student about his previous, existing and planned future insurance arrangements to check for any overlap in insurance cover as he transitions from the school to the provider.
 
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