Advisory Contact Details

If you would like guidance on any aspect of your international-student programme, please contact our SIEBA team below during normal business hours Monday to Friday

Melissa Heyrick Professional Learning & Development Manager  0210735692


Simon Stephenson


Member Services Manager 




John van der Zwan


Executive Director


021 207 3251


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Below is a collection of situations that schools have asked our advice on, and questions that often come up, which you may find helpful to read through or which may help answer your own questions. 


What is the going rate for agent commissions and do schools usually offer the same rate or a different rate for subsequent years of study after the initial year?

Generally, the rate paid to agents is 15% of tuition for each year the student is enrolled at the school. Some schools push for lower in subsequent years, but you would likely need larger numbers to have any influence in that discussion.

Do schools generally zero-rate the homestay placement fee or charge GST?

This is an admin fee, and as such does attract GST. Other homestay fees do not.

Visa and Enrolment

Are students allowed to start at school on a Visitor Visa while they are waiting for a Student Visa? 

Unfortunately, where you have given an offer of place for longer than 12 weeks, and the student has applied for a student visa, they may not start school until they get their visa. Where students intend to have a trial period or study for up to 12 weeks, they can study on a visitor visa, so the issue is around intention.

Last year a student arrived on a visitor’s visa and did 3 months of schooling. The mother would like to send her daughter back to our school this week, but she is still on her visitor visa. How long can she keep studying at our school?

Students who are in New Zealand on a visitor visa can study for a maximum of 3 months (12 weeks) in any 12-month period. Once a student has “used” their 12 weeks they will need a student visa to continue studying.

I have an inquiry from a graduated student from Germany (18 yo) if he could come to our school. Is this a problem?

No - you just need to make sure they understand and are willing to follow the school rules. Especially regarding driving and curfews.

Is there any upper age limit for international students entering a high school?

There is no MOE upper age limit for internationals at high school. It is up to the school -which would consider appropriateness of school facilities and rules before accepting the student.

For an enquiry for a student for 2 months, the father has provided me with a NZeTA (NZ Electronic Travel Authority) and tells me this has replaced temporary visas, allowing children to do short term study in New Zealand. Is this correct?  If so, do I issue an Offer of Place from the start?  Is the Conditional Offer of Place no longer necessary?

The NZeTA is not a visa. It is simply a travel authority allowing the individual to get on a plane and travel to New Zealand. On arrival, they must still either show evidence of a visa obtained in their home country, or in the case of a traveller from a visa-waiver country, they may be granted a visitor visa on arrival at the New Zealand border. It is the visitor visa that would allow them to study up to 3 months in New Zealand without a student visa. So, no the father is not correct that the NZeTA has replaced visitor visas.

The period of intended study is very short, so you are fine to issue the offer of place and fee invoice and proceed and ask the family to provide evidence of the visitor visa on arrival (or you can use Visa view to verify their eligibility to study at your school.) You don’t need to provide a conditional and then a confirmed offer of place. The offer of place is conditional only on the payment of fees and becomes confirmed once fees are received.

Can police vets be done by other agencies and shared with the school?

No. While 76(5) requires the school to ensure that the safety check referred to in clause 77(1) is completed and is up to date, and this could be read that they may not need to do the check themselves, 77(1) then goes on to define a Safety Check for a residential caregiver and this includes a police vet, to obtain information that is relevant to a risk assessment. Because only approved agencies can carry out police vets, and the NZ Police are clear that:  vetting results should not be shared with multiple agencies because the New Zealand Police Vetting Service cannot guarantee the integrity of the information if it is passed on in an insecure manner.  Information released in a vetting result may also vary depending on the purpose of the vetting request.

The implication from this is that if the police vet is done by an agency that is not the school, the school has no way to know what information is contained in the police vet because that agency cannot share it. The school then does not have information from the police vet to complete a risk assessment. The school must therefore undertake a police vet themselves to be able to access the information that is needed. Information from police vets is very sensitive and I would be extremely concerned by schools or other approved agencies sharing information obtained in confidence through a police vet.

Do all 18 and over in homestay need to be police vetted?

No. Only residential caregivers need to be police vetted as part of a Safety Check. A Safety Check is a defined term 77.6 (1) a. and b. An appropriate check 76 (c) is required for all those 18 and over residing at the accommodation of a residential caregiver. An appropriate check is not defined (ie. police vet is not expressly required) and it is therefore at the discretion of the school to decide what is appropriate for others 18 and over in the home. Schools should assess the risk from others over 18 in the home and carry out a check that is appropriate to that risk. RCG also have a level of private access to under 18s that warrants a police vet and there are duties on residential caregivers to ensure supervision and separation for these students which should provide a level of mitigation to risk from having 18 and overs also in the home. That same private access should not be available to others 18 and over and therefore the same level of checking is not required. That is the intent in my view.  

Do homestays for short term groups need to be police vetted?

Yes. A homestay is a residential caregiver and must be police vetted as part of a Safety Check. This applies regardless of the length of stay or whether they are part of a group.

What about temporary accommodation?

The exemption for supervisors of international learners in temporary accommodation is specific to residential caregivers who are not resident of New Zealand and supervising the learner during their stay in New Zealand. These are most often groups who stay for a short period accompanied by their own supervisors (teachers, agents, parents…) and stay in motels or other similar type of accommodation. Usually this is arranged independently of the school. The exemption does not apply to groups staying in homestays who clearly fall outside 77 (2) and must be police vetted by the school.


We have a Japanese student whose mother has organised a visit to NZ and wants to take her for a trip during the school holidays. She wants her daughter to fly to Auckland and meet her there to start the trip. What is the right procedure to follow?

This requires a transfer of care. The Code requires that there is a plan communicated to and agreed to by the parents. Keep evidence of this (emails, or a signed form).

Are there guidelines on dealing with a 14-year-old international student enquiry? Are there restrictions at this age. Can they travel unaccompanied etc?

There are no specific guidelines for this age group. The whole Code applies and all school policies and procedures apart from the requirement to live with a parent, which is only for under 10s. As to whether they can travel unaccompanied - they can theoretically - airlines usually have unaccompanied minor programmes, but most students this age would travel with an adult - the first time at least.

Homestay & Accommodation

How often do we need to do a police check homestays?

It is a Code requirement to vet every 3 years. The Code specifies that a safety check for residential caregivers must be completed and up to date (76(1)b). It further specifies in 77(1)b that up to date means every 3 years. So, you have to police vet them every 3 years as mandated by the Code.

Do we need permission from parents when a homestay is taking their student out of town for the weekend or during holidays?

No, you do not IF the parents have signed (an updated version of) the SIEBA contract including clause 26: "Unless otherwise agreed in writing by the parties, this Agreement is considered to be written agreement for leisure travel or stays organised and supervised by the Student’s Residential Caregiver where the travel is within New Zealand for a period of not more than seven days and does not result in the Student missing any scheduled school days."

If you do not use a version of contract including this consent, then it would be good practice to get parents' agreement. However, this could be by email or phone call, with written records kept. If any adventure activities are to be undertaken, it’s a good idea to seek written consent for these in all circumstances.

I have offered to homestay a student for one week while her regular homestay family are on holiday. The problem is I have a paying Airbnb couple staying for 2 nights during that period. Is this ok, or should we try to find alternative accommodation for the student for the week? They will be upstairs, the student and myself downstairs for those 2 nights.

761) i and j say the school must: ensure that there is appropriate separation of international learners from others of different ages in the accommodation; and

(j) ensure that the learner is appropriately supervised in the accommodation. The Code does not require the school to police vet someone who is staying in the home temporarily- the safety check must be 'an appropriate check'. This leaves it to the school's risk assessment as to whether the student is safe, and to what extent the other inhabitants need to be checked. In this case, where the paying guests will only be in the home for 2 nights, if you ensure that there is appropriate separation (which you have stated is the case, with the student staying on a different floor with you), and ensure that the student is appropriately supervised (which would potentially mean not leaving them alone unsupervised in the home with the visitors), then this may be acceptable.

What do I need to see or check to accept a legal guardian for a student who is not their parent?

A legal guardian is where the court appoints a person or people in place of the parents (often when parents have been removed from the child). For overseas, you need to look for official document from the country. Otherwise, they must live with the de facto legal guardian (parents).

  • A document from a lawyer is not valid, there must be official documentation through the courts.
  • The school needs to be satisfied that whatever document is put in front of them needs to be evidence of legal guardianship.
  • It needs to be translated if in a foreign language.
  • It is recommended for the school to get it translated themselves.

Are students’ natural parents considered designated caregivers under the code? Do we need to safety check at all?

No, they are not. There is no Code requirement to safety check them. Many schools do a courtesy visit to ensure the accommodation is in reasonable condition, and they are not being ripped off by an unscrupulous landlord. However, this is not a requirement.

There will be an Australian visitor (over 18 yrs) visiting a Home-stay family. Do we complete the regular NZ Police Vet form or the one with the Australian History Check (which seems a bit more appropriate) and does this take even longer than a regular police check?

This is up the school's decision making, but there is no Code requirement to police vet a short-term visitor who is only staying a couple of weeks. It would still be wise to do a risk assessment and consider factors such as whether the visitor might be left alone in the home with the student etc.