Govt relaxes crackdown on post-study work visas

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says the Government has listened to concerns raised about its plans to tighten post-study work visas. Photo: Lynn Grieveson.

The Government has watered down its plans to tighten up work visas for international students, following pushback from education providers concerned about the impact on their businesses.

Regional providers have received a particular boost, with Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway saying those outside Auckland needed time to adjust to the new settings.

In June, Galloway announced a number of proposals to change international students’ post-study work rights, saying too many were “being sold a false dream” about a fast track to residency.

The proposals included limiting the length of post-study work visas for sub-degree courses to one year, and requiring those studying Level 7 qualifications to undertake at least two years of study before gaining work rights, up from one year at present.

However, after receiving over 2000 public submissions, Lees-Galloway said the Government had made a number of changes.

It had decided to provide a two-year visa for graduate diploma graduates working towards registration with a professional or trade association.

Students studying at a sub-degree level outside Auckland would also be given a two-year work visa if they completed their studies before the end of 2021.

The changes would 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”, Lees-Galloway said.

The proposal for greater restrictions on Level 7 students has also been removed entirely.

Remaining unchanged is the Government’s decision to remove all employer-assisted post-study work visas, which the minister said would reduce the risk of migrant exploitation and protect New Zealand’s reputation.

“New Zealand is a nation that must compete on quality, not quantity. Our changes reinforce New Zealand’s attractiveness for international students and match up positively with our key comparator nations.”

The current immigration settings will be grandparented to protect international students already in the country.