Probably one of the most wretched myths in recent times related to immigration in New Zealand is about post-study work visas being pathways to residence.

The myth depicts that the post-study work visas, issued to international students after completion of their studies are in some way “backdoor pathway to residence,” – a pathway that is in some way illegitimate and not right for New Zealand.

However what is conveniently ignored or brushed aside is the fact that this myth is being propelled and perpetuated by Immigration New Zealand (INZ), and the successive Immigration Ministers continue to buy-in this myth without much probing.

Earlier, it was Michael Woodhouse, Immigration Minister under the previous National government, who started becoming vocal in the lead up to elections, rejecting suggestions that INZ was propelling such myths and confusions, thus bringing disrepute to international students.

Immediately after elections, the new Immigration Minister in the Labour government, Iain Lees-Galloway, became the strongest backer of INZ stating that he is committed to stopping the backdoor pathways to immigration.

Regrettably, neither of the governments, which are supposed to be representatives of the public representative, has been able to tame the sense of entitlement that develops automatically within the bureaucracies, which is, in this case, the department of immigration.

Neither of the governments in recent times has been able to provide effective oversight on the INZ.

On the one hand, the INZ is progressively taking away avenues of investigation from decisions perceived to be taken arbitrarily and unfairly. On the other hand, it continues to perpetuate the myth around post-study work visa being pathways to residence in this country.

Every time an international student completes education and gets post-study work visa, a visa approval letter is sent to them from INZ informing about visa-entitlements and travel conditions.

In this letter, it is clearly mentioned that the post-study work visa is a pathway to residence.

A letter obtained by the Indian Weekender, sent out to an applicant as late as April 10, 2018, states, “In the future, you may want to apply for residence under the Skilled-Migrant Category. The Post Study work visas are another step towards this.”

The Indian Weekender had repeatedly questioned the basis and validity of this myth which is so conveniently perpetuated in public debate around immigration that students from India are most likely to exploit this pathway to residence, which is now conveniently portrayed as “backdoor.”

The Indian Weekender raised a concern, voiced previously many times since the new Labour-led government was formed last year that the briefing that the Minister is receiving might be biased against Indian applicants suggesting that the Indian students are the biggest lot that exploits “back door” path to residency. (Full story published in the edition dated Feb 2, 2018).

Regrettably, though understandably, the Minister rejected the concern and affirmed that he was very confident of the ministerial briefing that he receives from the ministry.

However, there was nothing substantial to justify why in last eight months of the new government; they have not got rid of this mentioning of post-study work visa as pathway to residence from the INZ website and other collaterals used for engaging with applicants.

Till the time, that myth is busted and banished in dustbin, if it could ever be, every international student who invest in this country, in a hope to make a decent life for himself, has to go through piercing eyes of those, who hold international students and migrants responsible for every problem that this country faces.

Although the Minister had given the first hint at an exclusive interview with the Indian Weekender that the first round of changes are coming and are very near, and would be around international students.

There is an urgent need for debunking the myth around post-study work visas being pathways to residence.

INZ has to come out clean on this, if it is a pathway offered by the department, then every international student, regardless of ethnicity and country of origin, has the right to walk on that pathway, obviously in an appropriate and law-abiding manner.

However, INZ cannot keep on offering this pathway so blatantly and hope for Indian students not following the pathway on their own, so as not to stir up emotions of those who detest the very idea of ethnic migrants flooding the land of Aotearoa. 

Indeed, more oversight on INZ is the order of the day.