Fees Free

Everything you need to know about the Government's Fees Free initiative.

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Fees Free isn't just for people going to Uni. The free fees policy applies to all tertiary study including apprenticeships and industry training. However, there are eligibility criteria for both the learner and the apprenticeship they are enrolling in, so you need check first to see if you will be able to get fees-free training.

What is Fees Free?

The best reason to start training a new apprentice now!

Fees Free is a Government scheme introduced in 2018 to encourage more New Zealanders into formal study, learning or training. 

Industry training is fees-free for the first two years of an apprenticeship for eligible first-time learners and apprentices enrolling in eligible programmes. 

Learners can begin their training at any time in 2019 and be eligible for the next 24 months fees-free.

Is my trainee eligible for Fees Free?

To be eligible for fees-free for an apprenticeship or training programme in 2019, learners must:

  • be enrolling in a New Zealand Apprenticeship or another programme of at least 120 credits that starts in 2019, is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission, recognised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, and is at New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) level 3 or above;


  • be entitled to work in New Zealand;


  • not be enrolled in school at the start date of the programme; 

and either:

  • have been enrolled in a school at any time during 2017 or 2018; 


  • not have previously undertaken more than 60 credits at level 3 or above on the NZQF, including tertiary education at an equivalent level undertaken in any other country, but excluding any tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in a secondary school.

How to find out about eligibility

Individual learners (or any third party) can use a learner’s NSN number to check their eligibility online at Free Fees

Questions about the outcome

If a candidate gets a NO can they appeal?

Yes.  TEC has a dispute process in place but only the candidate can initiate that process.  TEC will not deal with a third party (eg BCITO).

If the candidate gets a YES what happens next?

Nothing, zilch, zippo!  Sign-up your new apprentice now and we’ll look after the details!

If the candidate gets a WE’RE NOT SURE what happens next?

The candidate must check the rest of the criteria shown on screen and possibly complete a Statutory Declaration if they believe they are eligible.

Note: only the owner of the NSN number can complete and sign the Statutory Declaration.

A Statutory Declaration form needs to be completed by the trainee and witnessed by a Justice of the Peace, solicitor, or Registrar of the District or High Court.

The completed and witnessed Statutory Declaration form should be emailed to [email protected] and you will get a response from TEC directly. 

What BCITO programmes are eligible for Fees Free?

Most BCITO programmes are eligible for Fees Free.

Eligible programmes must be made up of at least 120 credits and be funded by the Tertiary Education Commission, recognised by NZQA and listed on the NZ Qualifications Framework at level 3 or above.

View fees free eligible BCITO programmes

What costs are covered by Fees Free?


  • programme fees,
  • off-job training course fees, and
  • carpentry night class fees

that are invoiced during the immediate 24 months following sign-up in 2019.

Got more questions?

Can an Experience Recognition (ERP) candidate be eligible?

Yes, but only if they do not have to pay the Principal Contractor/Self-employed fee ($1,000).  Anyone who is an employee or has a principal contractor may be eligible, but they’ll need to check their eligibility online.

What happens if a trainee’s circumstances change?

The clock doesn’t stop ticking on the ‘24 months after sign-up’ during 2019 rule regardless of whether the apprenticeship is on hold, in grace or a trainee withdraws from their programme.

Can a candidate on a work visa apply for Fees Free?

Yes, if they are entering a BCITO programme that meets TEC requirements and the candidate meets the BCITO working visa time limit policy.

Can a trainee who withdrew from their programme before 2019 be eligible for the Fees Free payment if they resign in 2019?

If a trainee has not achieved more than 60 accumulated credits* or achieved a similar level of achievement at another provider (Uni, Polytechnic etc) and the BCITO programme they are signing into meets the TEC criteria, they may be eligible.  They will need to go through the same process as anyone applying for Fees Free.

*Accumulation of credits can occur outside of a specific programme based qualification, e.g. First Aid course, Elevated Working Platform, Class 2, 4 or 5 Driving Licence, Licence endorsement = WTR: Passenger, Chemical handling course etc.

If you've got a specific question please call us on 0800 422 486 or contact us by email.