Officials are trying to allow dozens of overseas masters students into this country under a new border exemption announced by the government last month.

The government is allowing 250 international PhD and postgraduate students to return, and doctoral students have priority.

Some 194 PhD students from 45 countries are confirming their visas before returning. The next steps for these students include receiving confirmation from Immigration New Zealand, and obtaining a place in a managed isolation facility, according to the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Universities New Zealand said the criteria for selection were strict, so the number was less than the full quota.

Andy Jackson, tumuaki tuarua, te ara kaimanawa at the MOE said officials were now working to identify the further 56 Level 9 Masters students who would complete the cohort of 250 students.

"The government will review further possible border exceptions, as and when it is safe to do so. As such, providers should be planning for a range of scenarios in 2021."

The first priority group are PhD students who hold or have held a valid visa to study in New Zealand in 2020, were enrolled in a PhD or other postgraduate qualification prior to border closure on 19 March, and are studying towards a qualification that involves practical components that cannot be progressed or completed offshore.