Border exceptions for teachers

As a result of COVID-19, entry into New Zealand from all countries is strictly controlled.

Under a new class border exception, 300 teachers who aren’t eligible to come to New Zealand under current border rules will now be able to come here to work for eligible early learning services, schools and kura.

Immigration New Zealand’s current border rules:

Border rules do change frequently. The following information is based on Immigration New Zealand’s current border rules.

In principle, New Zealand’s borders are only open to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, travellers from quarantine-free travel countries, and people with what Immigration New Zealand considers a critical purpose to travel.

As of July 2021, the Government has included 300 teachers to this list of critical workers through a class border exception.

This means that teachers who weren’t eligible to enter New Zealand for any other reason – and their partners and dependent children – may now be eligible to come here.

The border exception allows teachers to come to New Zealand to work in an eligible early learning service, school or kura on a Critical Purpose Visa and includes their partners and dependent children.

This includes teachers who were already employed in New Zealand, and who had an employment agreement on 19 March 2020 that is still active today, who left the country and could not return to their positions due to the border closure.

All of the usual teacher registration and visa processes apply (e.g. Teaching Council, NZQA and Immigration New Zealand processes) including the requirement for teachers and their families to book and complete a 14-day stay in managed isolation or quarantine (MIQ). It doesn’t give priority access to MIQ.

Under this border exception, employers will be billed for the costs of the MIQ stay.

The Ministry’s only role in the process is to ensure that the border exceptions are effectively and fairly allocated to early learning services, schools and kura with the greatest recruitment need.

To ensure an effective process, they are working with the education sector as they refine and implement the eligibility criteria set out by Cabinet.

State or state-integrated schools and kura that are Decile 1-3, considered ‘hard to staff’ or in need of teachers in shortage areas (such as science, technology and maths) will be eligible, as will early learning services that are Decile 8-10 on the health deprivation index.

Early learning services can use the NZ Dep 2018 map to check their decile on Environmental Health Intelligence New Zealand’s website.

Key dates

July 2021: Applications open for early learning services, schools and kura with teachers over the border.

If you are a teacher who was already employed with you in New Zealand, who left the country and could not return to their position due to the border closure, and who had an employment agreement on 19 March 2020 that is still active today, you can now apply for a border exception.

September 2021: Applications open for early learning services, schools and kura wanting overseas teachers.

Eligibility criteria

State or state-integrated schools/kura

To be eligible, schools or kura must:

  • be 'hard to staff' or
  • in decile 1-3 or
  • require STEM teachers (more detailed criteria to come) and
  • demonstrate they have exhausted their recruitment options in the New Zealand market.

Early learning services

To be eligible, early learning services must:

  • be low decile (as measured by the Ministry of Health’s deprivation index 8-10) and
  • demonstrate they have exhausted their recruitment options in the New Zealand market.



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