The New Zealand border is closed to most non-residents, except for those who have a critical purpose and are granted an exception to the border restriction. The suspension of offshore temporary entry visa applications came into effect in August 2020.
“Over time we will enhance our risk and verification network offshore”
The government has approved two border exceptions for students, one for 250 PhD and postgraduate students and another 1,000 for returning bachelor and postgraduate students. Only students nominated by their education provider and the ministry of education are eligible.
The most recent extension of the visa freeze, announced in December, is in place until at least May 2021 and applies to not only new applications but those already in the system, “INZ is not processing any applications from students who are outside of New Zealand. The students should not put time and effort into updating documents at this point” it advised in a presentation to education agents.
It does not apply to the 1250 students in the government approved exemption.
The government agency also confirmed it will undertake most visa processing onshore, in a plan accelerate by the impact of Covid-19.
It has announced visa processing and risk verification functions are being withdrawn from Mumbai, Manila and Pretoria by end of March 2021 with those offices to be closed by the end of August.
“The New Delhi Office will continue with risk and verification. Visa processing will also be withdrawn from our Beijing office. The exact date is to be determined. Beijing will retain risk and verification functions,” INZ stated in the presentation.
“Our pacific presence remains unchanged. Over time we will enhance our risk and verification network offshore.”
The decision has been labelled as disappointing by Ravi Lochan Singh the director of Global Reach, which represents all New Zealand universities in South Asia.
“The decision of INZ to not commence the student visa process for students from South Asia is very disappointing.
“It has taken education agents working with New Zealand institutions decades to create a pull for it as a destination for students but the current stance of the government is derailing the goodwill created on the back of great work that the country had done in containing the virus.”
Students outside the country do not require a visa to commence studies online with a New Zealand provider, however they are being warned that offshore study does not mean they will be automatically granted a student visa when applications recommence, and that no offshore study is counted towards post study work visa criteria.
INZ said it is “working hard to make sure that prospective students are aware of these matters”.
New Zealand will still require 30 weeks of full time study in country for a student at a bachelor degree level or above to be eligible for PSW visas, while 60 weeks is required for qualifications below this level.
“The decision of INZ to not commence the student visa process for students from South Asia is very disappointing”
In addition, students who have previously studied in NZ and meet the post study work visa duration requirements, but were caught offshore when the border closed, cannot apply for post study work visas at this time.
According to INZ this is “because of the border restrictions and the offshore visa suspension which is in place to support the border restrictions”.
The Pathway Student Visa program which was due to be implemented has also been postponed. PSV allowed international students to undertake up to three study programs at one or more eligible education providers, on a single visa.
INZ had planned to make the visa category permanent early in 2021 however it said that current eligibility targets are unable to be met due to the impacts of Covid and the PSV cannot be a permanent category until “some time after the border has opened”.
There is currently no date for when INZ will lift the suspension on offshore visa processing, or when the country’s border restrictions will be eased.