New Zealand visa changes could affect international student numbers

by Ray Clancy on April 24, 2017

International students who plan to study in New Zealand and stay on for a period afterwards could be affected by planned changes to the country’s visa programme, it is claimed.

Under the changes visa holders earning less than $49,000 would not be allowed to stay on for more than three years and according to the International Education Group this could affect students once they have graduated.

IEG spokesman Paul Chalmers said that very few graduates would be able to earn this level of salary yet they should be encouraged to stay as having studied in the country they have a lot to offer in the longer term.

The visa change proposals are open to consultation until 21 May 2017 and Chalmers said he believes that education groups will lobby for students to be exempt from this particular proposal.

‘New Zealand needs around about 50,000 to 55,000 migrant workers per year. Ideally they should be skilled, trained in New Zealand and then let into the workforce,’ Chalmers added.

Immigration lawyer Iain MacLeod said there are concerns that the new visa rules could affect the number of international students choosing to study New Zealand at a time when other countries such as the UK, Australia and the United States are all highly competitive in terms of what they offer.

These countries, all of which attract a high level of students from overseas, are all undergoing immigration changes. The US is tightening its rules, the UK is expected to change its rules when it leaves the European Union and Australia has also just announced a tightening or visa rules.

MacLeod pointed out that there were always winners and losers with immigration law changes but he said the focus of the new rules would be on bringing more highly skilled people into New Zealand, which could only be a good thing for the country.

Overall, the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) in New Zealand, does not think the changes will benefit those that the Government says it wants to help, low paid migrant workers and ordinary people who cannot get jobs.

‘Many migrant workers aren’t being well treated. When the labour inspectorate does reviews of industries such as construction, labour hire, hospitality, retail, horticulture, agriculture and so forth, they find alarming rates of failure when it comes to maintaining basic standards at work,’ he said.

He believes that if the Government really wants to help people in New Zealand get jobs instead of foreign workers than it should reduce the number of visas granted to students and to working holiday makers who are often competing for unskilled jobs.

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