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Govt to reduce post-study work rights in stages for sub-degree courses

Wednesday 8th August 2018

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The government will cut post-study work rights for international students, in an attempt to attract people studying higher-quality courses with skills the country needs.

The changes will see the employer-assisted post-study work visa removed from Nov. 26, along with reductions to the length of time work visas will be provided. Someone who studies towards a bachelors' degree in New Zealand would still be eligible for three-year open work visa upon completion, as under the previous rules, but changes will be made to lower-level qualifications.

Current students won't be worse off, and those who complete their study in the next three years will be eligible for longer visas. Someone studying a lower-level qualification, such as a graduate diploma or other sub-degree course, would be eligible for a one-year open post-study work visa, if they study in Auckland, or a two-year open post-study work visa, if they study outside Auckland, excluding distance learning - as long as they complete it by the end of 2021.

After that, students studying below degree level would only be eligible for a one-year open post-study work visa, or one additional year if they are a graduate diploma graduate and working towards registration with a professional or trade body. They would also be required to study in New Zealand for two years before becoming eligible for a work visa.

International students studying Level 8 qualifications - that's a postgraduate diploma or bachelors' honours degree - will also need 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. 

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the changes will "boost New Zealand’s economy, reduce student exploitation and promote our regional education offerings."

The changes follow consultation over the past two months. In June, Lees-Galloway put out a slightly more extensive set of proposed changes, which didn't include the staged reduction of visa eligibility past 2021, but did extend the Long Term Skills Shortage List requirement to those studying at Master's degree level too.

"Our changes will support the attraction of international students studying at higher levels of study, and those who undertake high quality sub-degree courses that deliver the skills needed in our growing economy," Lees-Galloway said. "They also provide time-limited incentives for students to study and work in the regions, boosting regional education providers and supporting our aims to lift regional investment and productivity."

"The removal of employer-assisted post-study work rights at all levels will help reduce the risk of migrant exploitation, and better protect New Zealand’s international reputation," Lees-Galloway said. "The bums-on-seats approach championed by the previous government is coming to an end."

New Zealand's annual net migration was 65,000 in the year to June, with student visas dropping 1.8 percent to 23,600 while work visa numbers rose 3 percent to 46,400. India was the biggest source of student visa migrants, up 3 percent to 5,900, with Chinese student numbers down 15 percent to 4,800 and the Philippines falling 4 percent to 1,400. 


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