Earlier this month the government of New Zealand announced a refurbished visa model for international graduates that wish to continue living and working in the country upon finalising their higher education studies. These latest changes are expected to contribute to reaching the government’s policy objective of increasing the international education sector’s value to 5 billion NZD (approx. EUR 3.25 billion), which would entail almost doubling international enrolments by 2025. Improvements in the stay conditions upon graduation are expected to attract more international students and encourage study especially outside New Zealand’s largest city-Auckland.
The aforementioned reform responds to the general criticism of the former visa rules that linked one type of work to particular employers, a process known as “employer-assisted visa”which reportedly made many graduates feel ‘trapped’ in low paying jobs.
According to Immigration New Zealand, the following changes were specifically made in the visa regime:
- removing the employer-assisted post-study work visas at all levels;
- providing a one-year post-study open work visa for students studying Level 4 - 6 and non-degree Level 7 qualifications according to the New Zealand’s Qualifications Framework, with an additional year for Graduate Diploma graduates who are working towards registration with a professional or trade body;
- providing a two-year post-study open work visa for students studying Level 4 - 6 and non-degree Level 7 qualifications outside Auckland, provided study is completed by December 2021, at which point the entitlement for post-study work rights reverts to a one-year post-study open work visa for students studying Level 4 - 6 and non-degree Level 7 qualifications with an additional year for Graduate Diploma graduates who are working towards registration with a professional or trade body;
- providing a three-year post-study open work visa for degree Level 7 or above qualifications; and
- requiring international students studying Level 8 qualifications to be in an area specified on the Long Term Skills Shortage list, in order for their partner to be eligible for an open work visa, and in turn the partners’ dependent children to be eligible for fee-free domestic schooling.
These changes will come into effect on 26 November 2018, and are the latest in a series of modifications made to several visa types in New Zealand since 2015, including the extension of the pilot for the
Student Pathway Visa and changes in the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Visa, all meant to support the broader policy objectives.