The visa, which was identified as a priority action in the 2014 international education industry strategic roadmap, aims to simplify the visa process for international students and thus make New Zealand more competitive as a study destination.
“The industry and government believe that pathway student visas will help retain more international students and make New Zealand more competitive”
It will also make the country more attractive by granting work rights for students for the full duration of the visa if their first programme of study qualifies for work rights under existing immigration rules.
“The industry and government believe that pathway student visas will help retain more international students and make New Zealand more competitive with countries such as Australia which already offer pathway programmes,” commented Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce.
“The international education industry is already worth NZ$2.85bn in foreign exchange each year and pathway student visas are an important initiative that will help us in our goal to double the value of international education to New Zealand by 2025,” he added.
Under the new visa, international students can undertake up to three consecutive programmes offered by a single provider or a group of providers, without having to obtain a new visa.
For example, they could study for three consecutive years at a school, or enrol on a year of English language training, followed by a year-long foundation course, before progressing to a three-year degree.
The 18-month pilot period started earlier this month at more than 500 primary, seconday and tertiary institutions, all of which had an application approval rate of 90% or higher in 2014/15.
The pilot will enable Immigration New Zealand to monitor transition rates and determine how well the arrangements between education providers work.
“We hope it will serve to both attract new students and encourage current students to remain in New Zealand for further studies”
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse predicted that it will also make the department more efficient, as fewer students will need to apply for visas each year.
“The pathway visa is great news for New Zealand’s international education industry and it sees one of the priority actions in the Strategic Roadmaps realised a year on from their development,” John Goulter, general manager for stakeholders, communications & intelligence at Education New Zealand, told The PIE News.
“While it’s too early to forecast impact, we hope it will serve to both attract new students and encourage current students to remain in New Zealand for further studies,” he said.
As well as the pathway visa, New Zealand has also introduced e-visas for students who apply online, as a further measure to simplify the system.
E-visas, which don’t require applicants to send off their passport, will be available to people renewing work, visitor and student visas from within New Zealand (excluding Chinese nationals), and people from visa-waiver countries applying for these categories.
Along with these changes, the country’s online visa enquiry system, VisaView, has now been extended to education providers. The online platform, which is used by employers to check migrants’ eligibility to work in New Zealand, will enable providers to check whether an overseas student can study with them.