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New Zealand’s post-study work visa policy set to change

The New Zealand government has opened a consultation on proposed changes to post-study work visas for international students that would see work rights for students below degree level restricted, a policy that was first announced during the electoral campaign last year by the Labour party.

The new policy would restrict PSW rights for students below degree level. Photo: Tyler Lastovich/Pexels

The changes seek to decouple work rights from employer sponsorship at every level, in a bid to make international students less vulnerable from exploitation

Students pursuing a non-degree qualification at level 7 or below will retain a one-year open post-study work visa provided they study in New Zealand for at least two years.

Those studying at degree level 7 or above would be provided with a three-year open post-study work visa.

International postgraduates would also be required to be studying in an area on the Long Term Shortage Skill list to retain work and education entitlements for their family members.

The changes seek to decouple work rights from employer sponsorship at every level, in a bid to make international students less vulnerable from exploitation.

The proposed changes, according to the consultation document set out by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, would increase the skill level needed to proceed to permanent residency and still allow international students to gain NZ work experience upon completion of their studies.

“The changes will disadvantage both PTEs and ITPs delivering in the Level 4 -7 space”

However, they will also likely cause a reduction in the number of international students, with Private Training Establishments and Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics likely to see the biggest impact, the document reads.

Craig Musson, Independent Tertiary Education NZ chair, told The PIE News that the organisation is looking into the effects of the changes and how they will affect providers, as some operate across all levels and some at level 5-6 only.

“The changes will disadvantage both PTEs and ITPs delivering in the Level 4 -7 space,” he said, adding that providers have been encouraged to send their own submission to the consultation.

English New Zealand is also pondering the consequences of the changes, with the view that clarification is needed on some of the terminology used as some diploma types sit on different levels of the qualification framework, the association’s executive director Kim Renner told The PIE.

“Members offering English plus other programs and pathways to tertiary education will be the most affected,” Renner said.

But the policy’s accent on higher skills level may be a silver lining for the ELT industry.

“The intention of the policy seems to be to have more students studying in higher level qualifications, and this will have an impact on the level of English needed for pathway programs,” Renner explained.

Universities New Zealand instead welcomed the proposed changes, praising the simplified system which will protect students from exploitation and ensure skill shortages are dealt with.

“The previous system permitted unscrupulous employers to exploit students and often saw students end up trying to get jobs with qualifications for which there was no real demand,” Universities New Zealand executive director Chris Whelan said in a statement.

“Having the PSW visa tied to one employer is no longer fit-for-purpose in today’s working environment”

“These changes simplify things for students while encouraging them to get qualifications that will open doors to more meaningful jobs.

“That’s better for them; it’s better for the employers who are constantly dealing with skill shortages. And it’s therefore ultimately better for the country.”

Director international at the University of Auckland Brett Berquist told The PIE the changes for degree level students and above reflect a modernisation of the post-study work policy advocated for by several universities.

Through Universities New Zealand, we held several discussions, including with Immigration New Zealand, on this issue, leading to a proposal submitted on behalf of our 8 universities.

“The changes announced recently reflect our suggestions for university graduates.  We will work with the other universities for a joint response to the proposed changes,” he said.

“The proposed changes reflect a proposal from the university sector to simplify the post-study work visa process to align with the changing world of work where consulting, entrepreneurship, etc. are of increasing importance,” Berquist added.   

“Having the PSW visa tied to one employer is no longer fit-for-purpose in today’s working environment.”

The consultation will close on Friday 29 June 2018. At the same time, Education New Zealand is consulting on the Government’s draft of the International Education Strategy 2018-2030, with submissions due by 22 June.

 

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