Study visa troubles in New Zealand
The delays could cost millions for the New Zealand economy. Source: Shutterstock

The New Zealand government is facing significant delays in processing study and tourist visas, which analysts estimate could cost the government millions of dollars in losses.

The Institute of Technology and Polytech (ITP) sector – government-owned tertiary education organisations – evaluates the delays to cost at least NZ$33.4 million, Newsroom reports, reducing the country’s “attractiveness and competitiveness” as a study abroad and holiday destination.

“Serious concerns about visa processing times are held by the sub-sectors in New Zealand – but particularly ITPsm, private training establishments, and English Language schools. Universities and schools sector have also experienced visa processing delays and are also concerned by the overall slowdown,” the briefing document by Education New Zealand (ENZ) said.

“ENZ is concerned that visa processing delays…may hinder New Zealand’s ability to meet the goals of the New Zealand International Education Strategy, including the target value of NZ$6 billion by 2025.”

According to The PIE Newsthe delays are due to the significant increase in student visa applications from India and China, which grew by 42 and 21 percent respectively. INZ head Greg Patchell said the volume of applications was “unprecedented” in some areas.

“The volumes we are seeing are materially outstripping the forecast volumes,” Patchell said, as reported by Newsroom. 

The new consolidated visa processing introduced in 2017 – where only three locations can process student visas with offshore (such as Beijing, New Delhi and London) and onshore branch offices – also appear to contribute to the delays.

“INZ is processing visa applications as fast as practicable and we generally do a good job; however, processing times will always depend on the complexity of an application,” Jeannie Melville, INZ’s assistant general manager, education and tourism said.

To cope with the demand, Patchell said technical adjustments to access more funding will be made, as well as adding more staff and expanding the Hamilton office.

At the Education and Workforce Select Committee last week, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said he was “concerned” about the delays and said there had been adjustments made to shift more processing online and onshore.

In 2017, New Zealand hosted 125,392 international students, according to a 2018 ENZ report. These students paid NZ$1.1 billion in tuition fees.

The decrease in enrollment in 2017 is attributed to the 22 percent drop in enrollment in PTEs and one percent decrease each in ITPs and English Language schools. The decrease in both funded and unfunded PTEs was due to a 28 percent decrease in students from India, driving a nine percent decrease in international students in Auckland.

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