New Zealand student visa
As New Zealand temporarily suspends applications for student visas, thousands will risk losing their visa status by the year’s end. Source: ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP

Quality Tertiary Institutions (QTI) has urged Immigration New Zealand (INZ) to re-start issuing student visas for online study and qualify international graduates for post-study work rights even if they studied remotely.

These measures were listed in its 2020 pre-election manifesto, aiming to reinvigorate the country’s international education sector during the pandemic.

“We need to allow providers to recruit, enrol and train international students remotely, on the understanding they can continue their studies in New Zealand without any impact on their study visas, once the borders can be safely opened,” QTI executive director Tommy Honey said in a statement. He emphasised that New Zealand risks “missing out” on international students as “some of our competitor countries are doing it.”

QTI represents private tertiary providers in New Zealand. Though initially successful at controlling the spread of the novel COVID-19 virus, the island nation has tightened border control with the freezing of temporary visa issuance.

These are QTI’s suggestions to cater to the international student community while observing border restrictions:

  • Immigration New Zealand immediately re-starts the issuance of student visas.
  • All providers who have been given temporary permission to deliver online to international students located offshore for 2020 only, be permitted to do so in 2021.
  • Students whose enrolment commences in 2021 qualify for normal post-study work rights even if they have to complete their first year of study or part-year offshore in 2021, up to a maximum of 50% of their study load.
  • Auckland post-study work rights be adjusted up to be the same as the rest of the country.
  • The criteria for student pathways visas are broadened to allow more quality providers, including English language providers, to participate in pathways programs that staircase into diploma and degree-level study or higher.

No new student visas for now

The New Zealand government is not expecting to welcome international students back until next year. International students cannot currently obtain a study visa because INZ has suspended all temporary visas until at least Nov. 10, 2020.

International students with a valid student visa can still study with their education provider remotely. INZ explained: “If the ‘first entry before’ date on your visa has passed, you will not be able to travel to New Zealand on that visa. When the border re-opens and you have re-confirmed your study plans, you will need to apply for a new student visa before you will be able to travel to New Zealand,” explained INZ on their website.

Further, students who want to cancel or defer their programme can withdraw their visa application and request a refund on the application fee.

Additionally, international graduates from New Zealand universities can apply for work visa for up to three years. This is on condition that they studied a certificate or diploma for 60 weeks, or a degree or higher qualification for at least 30 weeks.

The New Zealand government has already committed NZ$51.6 million to stabilise the country’s international education sector in the fallout of COVID-19. It is an urgent matter, seeing as it is a NZ$5 billion-dollar industry.

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