On Saturday 2 June the Government announced proposed changes to post-study work rights and family visas for students studying in New Zealand.  These changes have been announced in a consultation document. The Government will consult with interested parties from now until 29 June.  Sometime after that the new changes, including any amendments the Government agrees to as a result of the consultation process, will be introduced into Immigration Instructions.

The effect of these changes, if introduced, will be:

  • For non-degree courses at or below Level 7 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (i.e. diplomas or certificates) a one-year open post study work visa will be available ONLY IF the student has studied for at least 2 years;
  • For Bachelor Degree (Level 7) study or higher, a 3-year open post study work visa will be available. This will replace the current one-year open post study work visa followed by a 2-year employer assisted work visa; and
  • Partners and dependent children of students studying at Level 8 (postgraduate diploma) or Level 9 (Masters) on the New Zealand Qualifications framework will be entitled to apply for an open partnership-based work visa or domestic student visa (i.e. no international school fees) respectively ONLY IF the course of study is in an area specified on the Long-Term Skills Shortage List (http://skillshortages.immigration.govt.nz/long-term-skill-shortage-list.pdf). This change removes the entitlement of partners or dependent children of students studying at Level 8 or 9 for a course in an area not specified on the Long-Term Skills Shortage List (i.e. Business or Law) to apply for a partnership-based work visa or a domestic student visa.

So, what do these changes mean for you?

If you are already in New Zealand studying on a course then it is likely that you will be entitled to the most advantageous of the new policy or the existing one.  Typically, Immigration New Zealand ‘grandfathers’ old immigration instructions to make sure that people who had already started on a visa pathway are not disadvantaged. There will be no change to any partnership-based or student visa your family members already hold.

If you are thinking about coming to New Zealand to study a postgraduate diploma or a Masters degree in an area that is not listed on the Long-Term Skills Shortage List and you also have a family, I would recommend that you immediately enrol and file for your and your family’s visas.

If, after the new changes are introduced, you and your partner are considering living apart for a year while you study in New Zealand – beware!  Living apart for this length of time will undermine your credentials as a genuine and stable partnership.  Immigration New Zealand are particularly tough on this and are likely to decline your partner’s application when you get your post-study work visa in a year’s time. Instead consider the possibility of your partner coming to New Zealand on a Visitor Visa and your children as international students.  It will be costlier, but it is important for immigration purposes that you keep your partnership intact by continuing to live together.

Other than for students with partners and families, these changes should be beneficial as they will give graduates a longer time to find skilled employment. For example, if a graduate works for over 2 years in skilled employment on their open post-study work visa, they will be entitled to 10 Skilled Migrant points for work experience as well as 10 bonus points for one-year’s work experience in New Zealand towards the 160 Skilled Migrant Points they need for residency.



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