July 15, 2020

Mixed reactions to post-study work visa proposals

By Gurbir Singh

Immigration Minister, Iain Lees-Galloway’s proposed clampdown on the students’ rights to stay and work in the country after study, has caused ripples across a wide segment of society and received criticism from some groups.

While those students who are currently here have welcomed the removal of employer assisted post-study work visa, but the announcement has shattered the dreams of those who were contemplating choosing New Zealand as their study destination.

Influx of students from India – which is one of the two main education markets, may reduce to a trickle as students may explore other offshore study centres.

The proposed changes have also not found favours with the opposition National Party.

While talking to this journalist yesterday from Wellington, National’s Immigration spokesperson, Michael Woodhouse expressed his concern at the “tremendous uncertainty and confusion” this “half baked announcement” will cause.

“This is a ‘nibble at the edges’ change in policy (and) will cause tremendous uncertainty in an industry that is our second biggest service export earner”, he said.

He also referred to the huge impact it would have on students coming from India which is a major education market for New Zealand.

Disagreeing with the Immigration Minister, Woodhouse said, “Sub-degree qualifications are not necessarily low quality and include courses of foundation learning and English language that could lead to higher level courses.  These changes could prevent that study occurring in New Zealand.”

With regard to removal of employer assisted work visa, Woodhouse said, “There is no evidence that those on an employer assisted visas are more vulnerable to exploitation than those on open work visas.  These changes could actually have the opposite effect and would reduce the likelihood that graduates work in an area related to their qualifications”

Hamilton National party MP, David Bennett when approached for comments, echoed similar views.

“These changes are not necessary and (are) an attack on the international education sector that will impact on many students, particularly from India. It will mean NZ will be less attractive as an education destination and ultimately the country will miss out on the vast potential those students could have provided”.

But according to the Immigration Minister, international students were being misled by some dodgy agents and PTEs into believing New Zealand was an easy option for residency. This new policy will put an end to that.

In 2016-17, 18,266 students were granted a post-study visa. Of those, an estimated 9000 to 12,000 would be affected with these proposed changes, and according to the Minister himself, this reduction of students would an enormous impact on the $4.5 billion education sector and cost the country $260 million.

Within the education sector, where international education is keeping many institutes afloat, it is anticipated that while there will be a big impact on PTEs, ITPs and on the business of offshore and onshore immigration agents, on the other hand, universities may gain as graduate and above enrolments may soar.

Universities New Zealand Executive Director Chris Whelan reportedly commented, “These changes simplify things for students, while encouraging them to get qualifications that will open doors to more meaningful jobs. That’s better for them; it’s better for the employers who are constantly dealing with skill shortages. And it’s therefore ultimately better for the country”.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is now taking submissions on these proposed changes and submissions close on 29 June 2018.

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This article was originally published by this Journalist in June 2018 in IndiaNZherald