visa changes in nz
Auckland is lovely, but can you stay there? Source: Shutterstock

Change could be on the horizon for international students in New Zealand with the suggested implementation of new visa regulations. Restrictions will be placed on some students’ eligibility to remain and work in the country after they graduate, the New Zealand Herald reported.

International students who study in New Zealand for less than two years will lose their right to work in the country after graduation, however, those who study for longer than two years at bachelor-level or above will have more freedom with three-year work visas.

Under the proposed policy changes, international students would also have generous leeway on their entitlement to work part-time in New Zealand while they study.

Currently, international students also need to find an employer willing to sponsor them in order to work in New Zealand after their studies come to an end. As it stands, the job offer and sponsorship must be relevant to the student’s qualification, Immigration Lawyer Alistair McClymont told Radio New ZealandHowever, this is likely to be scrapped under the proposed regulations.

The policy changes have arisen out of speculation that some students come to NZ to study short, low-quality courses in an attempt gain residency in the country once their studies end.

“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,” Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway told New Zealand Herald.

“Too many students are being sold a false dream in New Zealand that the current post-study work rights can put students on a fast track to residency here,” Lees-Galloway said.

“This has led to a decline in the general skill level of migrants granted permanent residency and fraudulent and, frankly, unethical behaviour from some agents.”

Under the new policies, any student taking a course below bachelor-level which lasts longer than two years will be eligible to apply for a one-year open work visa once the course is completed.

“But if they want to continue on in New Zealand after that one year they’ll have to apply for a new visa that’s likely to be labour market-tested and that will mean they have to have a skill that is genuinely in demand in New Zealand,” Lees-Galloway asserted.

The policies are also relaxing visa rules for students studying at doctorate level who wish for members of their immediate family to join them in New Zealand, so long as their qualification is on the ‘long-term skill shortage list,’ New Zealand Herald reported.

It is anticipated a number of institutions will close as a result of the policy changes if they go through.

The “providers who are providing a low-quality education, who exist solely to provide a pathway to residency, they may not do so well. I think that’s good for our education sector and it’s good for New Zealand,” Lees-Galloway said.

On 5 June onwards, the public will be able to voice their opinions on the proposed visa regulations.

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