Circular 2011/01 - Eligibility to enrol in New Zealand schools

Schools and student support circular about the eligibility requirements for enrolment in New Zealand schools.

Date 22 March 2011 | Circular number 2011/01 | Category Schools and student support


This circular is about The eligibility requirements for enrolment in New Zealand schools. It includes the most recent changes to:

  • birth certificates for new entrants born in New Zealand since 1 January 2006
  • immigration legislation
  • eligibility to enrol for students who are ordinarily resident in New Zealand with their families, but who are here unlawfully.

This circular replaces Circular 2010/01 updated.

The action required is to follow the requirements of this circular to ensure that all eligible students are enrolled appropriately.

It is intended for boards of trustees, principals and administration staff of state, state-integrated and private schools.

For more information:

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This circular defines which students are eligible to enrol in New Zealand schools, and what documents are needed to confirm a student’s eligibility. It defines domestic and international student eligibility, and there is a section on short term visitors who are not enrolled.

Please note the following changes which are described in this circular:

  • Children born in New Zealand since 1 January 2006 have been issued with a birth certificate which shows whether they are a New Zealand citizen by birth or not. Schools will need to check for this information when enrolling new entrants from now on. Children who are not New Zealand citizens by birth may be eligible to enrol by another pathway.
  • MOE Approved is a new category of domestic student; it allows children who are unlawfully in NZ, but long term residents (at least 6 months) and ordinarily resident in NZ with their family (mother/father/legal guardian), to enrol and attend NZ schools as domestic students. Some students who hold expired Limited Purpose Permits may be eligible through this pathway. Parents who believe their children may be eligible under this category should contact their local office of the Ministry. More information will be in Circular 2011/04 to be published mid-2011.
  • The circular contains other changes of a minor nature.

Who is eligible?

  • Every child between the ages of five and nineteen has a right to enrol in a state school if they are a domestic student, or an exchange student. Eligibility ends on 1 January after a student’s 19th birthday. Special Education students are eligible until the end of the year that they turn 21 years of age.
  • Schooling is compulsory for domestic students between the ages of six and sixteen.
  • Students who are not eligible as domestic students may be able to enrol as international fee payers. International fee payers, and exchange students, can only be enrolled at schools that are signatories to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students.

Why is it important to determine eligibility on enrolment?

It establishes a student’s entitlement to an education, and how the school will be funded to provide that education. Having students enrolled in appropriate categories, supported by the required documentation, ensures that there can be confidence in the integrity of the attendance, enrolment, and funding processes that underpin our education system. Refer to Appendix A for a flowchart to help determine which eligibility criteria each student meets.

Domestic students and international students

Domestic students are funded by the Ministry of Education. International students and visitors are not.

Who are domestic students?

Domestic students have an entitlement to free state-funded education. Some domestic students are entitled to free education throughout their schooling, while others are entitled for a period of time, as shown in a visa or other documents.

Domestic students (permanent)

Domestic students (permanent) have permanent entitlement. The documents that provide evidence of their status need to be sighted and copied only once, when the student first enrols in a New Zealand school.

The following are categories of domestic (permanent) students:

  • New Zealand citizen
  • New Zealand resident
  • Australian citizen

For more details, and information about the evidence a school must sight, go to Appendix B.

Domestic students (time-bound)

Domestic Students (time-bound) are generally foreign students who hold a current Student Visa with Conditions, containing the words “Domestic Student”. They are entitled as domestic students for the period of time indicated on the Visa. While almost all students in this category will hold a Domestic Student Visa, some students in this category will have other documents, for instance, the dependents of diplomats, and those who are MOE approved.

The Student Visa, or other supporting documents need to be sighted and copied at these times - when a student

  • first enrols in a New Zealand school
  • moves to enrol at another school
  • provides updated documents to continue their enrolment.

For more details and information about Domestic students (time-bound), and the evidence a school must sight, go to Appendix C.

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Who are international students?

International students are sometimes referred to as foreign or fee-paying students. Students who do not fit into any of the domestic categories may be able to enrol in a school as fee-paying international students. International students are not funded by the Ministry.

Exchange students on exchanges approved by the Ministry of Education are exempt from paying fees.

The following are categories of international students:

  • International fee payer
  • Exchange student.

For more details, and information about the evidence a school must sight, go to Appendix D.

Funding implications

All domestic and exchange students in state and state-integrated schools are funded by the Ministry through a school’s operations grant.

The Education Act 1989 s4B specifies that international students must pay fees to cover all costs including tuition, course fees and administration, as well as the government levy. Information on international students and the payment of levies in relation to international students can be accessed at the For Providers of International Education section (external link) .

Waivers - 28 day Waiver and Extended Waiver

The Education Act 1989 s4(8) allows principals the discretion to have a foreign student in their school for a period of 28 days. This is sometimes used while a situation is being resolved (eg documents are being organised).

The Ministry does not fund these students. In very exceptional circumstances, the Ministry may extend this waiver while a complex situation is being resolved.

For more details, a principal should contact their local Ministry office.

Questions and answers

Do I have to enrol a domestic student?

Yes, in general, a state school must enrol a student who is eligible. There are some exceptions:

  • a school with an enrolment scheme must abide by that
  • a school may enrol a student who is currently excluded or expelled, but is not required to do so, except if directed to by the Secretary for Education. For more information go to (external link)

Can I enrol international fee paying students?

If your school is a signatory to the Code of Practice, and your board of trustees has a vacant place and makes an offer of place, your school can enrol an international student.

Do I have to enrol international fee paying students?

No. But a school that is a signatory to the Code of Practice can choose to enrol a fee paying student. Schools that are not signatories cannot.

What is the Code of Practice?

Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students provides a framework for education providers for the pastoral care of international students. The Code is established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989. The Act requires that a provider must be a signatory to the Code to enrol international students. It is administered by the Ministry of Education. Contact

Who are exchange students?

Exchange students are international students who are in New Zealand to study under an exchange programme approved by the Ministry of Education. This includes school-to-school exchanges, as well as those organised by Exchange Programme Organisations (EPOs). For a list of approved EPOs, see the Code-approved exchange organisations page (external link) . Exchange students are funded as domestic students.

Do I have to enrol an exchange student?

If your school is a signatory to the Code, you must enrol an exchange student as if they were a domestic student (eg lives in the school’s zone, etc).

Can I enrol a student who has a Visitor Visa that states that they can study for up to 3 months?

Yes, if your school is a signatory to the Code. You can enrol the student for one single period of study up to 3 months in any calendar year. The student must be entered on ENROL as an international student and must pay international fees.

What about short-term visitors who are just here for a visit?

A Visitor Visa holder can go to any school as a short-term visitor for up to two weeks if you are not receiving money for the visit. They may not pay any fees, and they are not entered on ENROL as they are just visiting. The school must keep a separate record of their details on a template. For the template and more details about Visitor Visa holders, and short-term visitors, go to Appendix E.

Who do I call if I need help to establish the immigration status of a student?

With written permission from a caregiver/parent, you can call Immigration New Zealand on 0508 558 855 and ask for information on a particular student’s situation.

Do I have to enter all students into the ENROL system?

All students that are enrolled at your school must be recorded in ENROL – domestic, international, and adult students. (Only short-term visitors who are visiting for 2 weeks or less are not recorded on ENROL).

What are the guidelines for eligibility of adult students?

These are set out in Circular 2004/07.

Why do I need to keep copies of documents as evidence of a student’s eligibility?

Schools are required to keep evidence of a student's eligibility to enrol in a New Zealand school and make it available on request to Ministry of Education staff, reviewers from ERO, and others authorised to enter the school. In the event of a Resourcing Audit of a school's Annual Return of Students, where the eligibility of a student counted as a domestic or exchange student is not able to be verified, the school's funding and staffing will be adjusted.

Issued by

Jeremy Wood, Group Manager, Education, Curriculum and Performance, Ministry of Education
National Office, 45 – 47 Pipitea Street, Thorndon, P O Box 1666, Wellington, New Zealand
Phone 04 463 8000, fax 04 463 8001

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