NZSA agents will also be given a dedicated point of contact within Immigration New Zealand branches, with whom they can discuss student visa applications before they are submitted.
“The international education industry is worth just over $2 billion to New Zealand’s economy. It is a bridge between New Zealand and the world. We want to double the economic and social benefits that international education brings over the next 15 years,” Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said in a statement this week.
“Only by the government working closely with the sector, and developing initiatives such as this that support growth, will we achieve that goal.”
Launched in 2007, the New Zealand Specialist Education Agent scheme is designed to raise the efficacy of education agents promoting New Zealand abroad. NZSAs undergo training, agree to an ethical code of conduct, and are officially recognised by New Zealand government agencies and education institutions.
However, only around 30-40% of international students in the country come through NZSA’s, suggesting many won’t benefit from the faster processing times. Irene Hamer, a spokesperson for Education New Zealand, said tying faster processing to NZSA’s would “encourage and motivate good performing agents” to join the scheme.
Yousef Bayyoud, of NZSA-member International Group for Educational Consultancy in Saudi Arabia, said: “At the moment I have to sent applications to Dubai and it takes around 20 days, although it differs from case to case. Ten days will give me good results… The US sometimes offers visas in three days so it’s competitive.”
However, he said most of his work was with Saudis who did not pose many visa problems. “I’ve faced delays with other nationalities such as Yemenis or Jordanians. I’ve had to wait up to two or three months in the past for New Zealand visas. So I hope this new processing applies to all nationalities,” he said.
As part of its mission to boost education exports, the New Zealand government wants to double the number of postgraduate students coming to the country and improve transition to residence rates among other measures over the next 15 years.
Recent efforts have included trade missions to Saudi Arabia and the scrapping of health screening rules, which will save international students NZ$17 million in costs.