Secondary school exchanges

Student exchanges are reciprocal programmes providing an opportunity for students to live and study in another country. Schools can organise exchanges themselves. Students can also choose to take part in exchange programmes run by an Exchange Programme Organisation (EPO).

Students experience a different school and education system with a different curriculum, a different culture, and possibly a new language. Most exchange students live with host families. 

Types of exchange programmes

Both school to school or exchange programme organisations programmes must meet these exchange requirements:

  • Education focused – students must be enrolled full-time at school and follow a standard educational programme, similar to a domestic student. They may have more intensive language tuition where required, but the programme should not be exclusively language. Programmes where travel is primarily for sporting, cultural or tourism activities should be considered as study trips, not exchanges
  • Pastoral care – exchange students are away from home and familiar environments. Schools and organisations are required to provide pastoral care in line with the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016 (external link)  for both inbound and outbound students. For specific pastoral care requirements, please see the relevant application forms [links].
  • Reciprocity – programmes should have equivalent numbers of inbound and outbound students, studying in the overseas school/country under equivalent conditions. As inbound students are considered to be domestic students, no tuition fees should be charged on either side (except for EPO students in private or state-integrated schools).
  • Duration – programmes of two weeks or less are not considered to be exchanges. Inbound students may be either international students or international student visitors. The maximum length of an exchange is 12 months.
  • Age range – exchange students must be aged 14-18, and enrolled in Year 9-13 (or overseas equivalent).

School-to-school exchanges 
Exchange Programme Organisations

Inbound exchange students

Inbound exchange students are considered to be domestic students (external link)  and are therefore eligible for the same funding and support as an equivalent domestic student, including ESOL support where necessary (external link) .  Although inbound exchange students are not covered by the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016 (external link) , exchange providers still need to provide Code of Practice level pastoral care to their inbound students. Inbound exchange students may study for up to 3 months on a visitor visa, but longer exchanges require a student visa

NZ immigration website (external link)

New Zealand students on exchange

Outbound students are generally not considered enrolled in their New Zealand school for funding purposes while they are on exchange, as they’re receiving education from the overseas organisation. Pastoral care and support is provided by the host school/organisation, often in conjunction with the home school/organisation. The host country determines any visa or permit requirements.

Enrolling inbound and outbound students

Guidance for schools on managing the enrolment of both inbound and outbound students is available from the ENROL team  (external link)


Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback