As part of New Zealand's five-stage ‘reconnecting to the world’ plan, international students will be welcomed back from the end of July. However, students applying for visas from 11 May 2022 would face stricter residency and working rights rules.

In summary, the changes are:

  • Students will continue to be eligible for post-study work rights if they are studying for a bachelor's degree, bachelor's honours degree, postgraduate diploma, master's or doctoral degree that they have studied full time in NZ for a minimum of 30 weeks.
  • For most international students eligible for a Post-Study Work Visa, the duration of that work visa will now mirror the time they study in NZ, up to a maximum of three years. This change would not apply to Master's and PhD students, who will continue to receive three years' post-study work rights if they spend 30 weeks in NZ undertaking full-time study.
  • Those studying Level 7, including Graduate Diplomas and Diplomas and below (excluding bachelor's degrees), will not get post-study work rights unless the area of study is relevant to an occupation on the "Green List".
  • From 31 July 2022, international students at the tertiary level will need $20,000 each year to support themselves and school students $17,000 per annum. This is on top of annual tuition fees.
  • Students applying for post-study work rights will need to prove they have $5,000 in available funds.
  • The fund's requirement will be reviewed every three years.
  • Students will also not be able to apply for a second post-study visa in NZ.

Indian Weekender spoke to education experts and education providers to know how they think these changes will impact the international students' attitude toward NZ, especially those from India.

Bharat Chawla, an education industry leader who is currently working on developing various platforms for NZ education, says NZ's opening borders is a big boon to the education sector, which has been crippled for the last few years.

"The changes in the post-study work rights are favourable for the industry and in line with the long-term strategy of bringing students to NZ for a more extended period and with industry demand and requirements.

“In the short term, the sector has to recalibrate its offerings and how the international education will be promoted, which can take time, but I expect that the industry will be stable in the long term, and students will be benefited. The announcement of the green list supports students' residency pathway, and the process will become easier,” says Chawla.

Education providers are also having a sigh of relief that at least the pathway for international students to come to NZ has finally opened up.

Luka Crosbie, Director of International and Special Projects at Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT), feels while the new policies are challenging for some, it a more sustainable model for international education.

"International students from India are attracted to degree programmes that combine the strength of applied education provided through Te Pukenga (New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology) qualifications and MIT's established industry recognition. We understand the importance to graduates of post-study work opportunities as these help them apply the skills they have gained through their studies. While the new policy may lead to limits in some areas, it has a more sustainable model for international education at its heart. This move aligns with the International Education Strategy recently released by Te Pukenga.

“We are looking forward to the different types of opportunities this new vision will provide,” says Crosbie.

Richard Smith, CEO of Auckland Institute of Studies, feels that the changes in post-study work rights would encourage students to take higher value programmes. “AIS welcomes the recent Government announcement to reopen borders to international students from 31 July 2022. The announced changes to post-study work rights mean that students in the popular MBA and MIT programmes will still be able to work for three years after graduation. Still, those in the related Postgraduate Diplomas will only qualify for one-year work experience. Students studying undergraduate and graduate diplomas will miss out on post-study work opportunities completely unless in an area of study on the immigration green list. This will likely encourage students to apply for higher-value programmes such as our Bachelor's and Master's degrees, where they are work-ready after completing internships and other industry projects in the final year of study.”

University of Otago's Director, International, Jason Cushen, says, “This announcement will give our international students currently offshore a greater degree of confidence to make plans to return to NZ. More than 260 students have been given the green light to return to Otago under border exemption. So far, a little more than 100 of these students have returned, with the remainder expected back by September this year.

“This announcement will result in our numbers of enrolled international students to start increasing again in 2023 after three years of decline. Given visa processing requirements, I wouldn't expect to see a significant increase in numbers until next year.”

Peseta Sam Lotu Liga, DCE Pasifika, Partnerships and Support, Unitec Institute of Technology, and former member of parliament points out that though it is exciting to have international students back, the potential impact is being assessed.

Chawla says that though the announcement is making the education sector happy, there is a lot that the government still needs to work on. “The government needs to clarify visa options for students travelling with their families. Immigration should clarify the processing time of application, when they will start accepting the students' visa applications, etc. In the past, we have seen these processes which run to make policy implementation smoother are not transparent, and it creates a lot of uncertainty in the industry,” he says.