New Zealand Govt’s Proposed Student Visa Changes to Impact Post-Study Employment

The proposed changes aim at addressing concerns over a decline in the general skill levels of migrants granted permanent residence in New Zealand.


The New Zealand government is mulling immigration policy changes under which international students pursuing courses of less than two years duration will not be able to work in the country after completing their course, and sponsorship by employers would be off the table, NZ Herald reported.

The proposed changes, announced on June 2, include removing the requirement for post-study work visas to be sponsored by a particular employer. The other proposed changes include providing a one-year post-study work visa for non-degree level 7 or lesser qualifications, and providing a three-year post-study work visa for degree level 7 or above qualifications.

The proposed changes will require students who have completed non-degree level 7 or below qualifications to study at least for two years so they gain eligibility for post-study work rights, among other proposed changes.

The proposal will affect 12,000 to 16,000 people, and bring about reduction in annual net migration, cited Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway as saying.

Graduate diplomas are listed under levels 5-6 and require one-year full-time study. A Bachelor’s degree is listed under level 7 and requires three years full-time study, while a master’s degree is listed at level 9 and requires two years full-time study. According to current rules, a post-study work visa (open) gives students up to 12 months to get a job in a field related to their studies, while a post-study work visa (employer assisted) lets students stay in New Zealand to gain work experience for a further two years (or three years if work experience is required as part of a professional registration).

If the students want to continue on in New Zealand after that one year they will have to apply for a new visa that is likely to be labor market-tested and that involves a skill that is genuinely in demand in the country, Lees-Galloway said, RNZ reported.

These changes are being proposed following concerns over the quality of education and study that is being used by many foreign students to get residency in New Zealand, Lees-Galloway added, saying that students are being sold a false dream that has led to a decline in the general skill levels of migrants granted permanent residence. It has also resulted in international students being exploited by fake and unethical agents, employers as well as education providers, he said.

“Too many students are being sold a false dream in New Zealand that the current post-study work rights can put them on a fast track to residency here,” Lees-Galloway was quoted as saying by NZ Herald.

He explained that those above bachelor level could work in New Zealand for up to three years with the employer’s endorsement. “There have been too many cases where migrant workers have been subject to exploitation because they are dependent on a particular employer to stay in the country,” Lees-Galloway pointed out.

Saying that the work rights will be maintained for the international students who are currently in the country, Lees-Galloway added, “It’s only fair that we don’t change the rules on them now that they’re already here, those rights will be grandparented. But future students, those who come from next year onwards, the new rules will apply for them,” he said.

The proposed changes have been welcomed by the New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment (NZAMI) and NZ’s universities. “The previous system permitted unscrupulous employers to exploit students and often saw students end up trying to get jobs with qualifications for which there was no real demand,” Universities New Zealand Executive Director Chris Whelan was quoted as saying by NZ Herald.

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