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Immigration: 9 In 10 Indian Student Visa Applications Pending

Thousands of Indians who have applied to study in Aotearoa are facing an uncertain future as student visa applications are piling on faster than Immigration New Zealand (INZ) can process.

Official data shows that as of February 18, 2024, nearly nine in every 10 student visa applications from India were pending a final decision. The global number was slightly better, with seven in 10 applications awaiting a decision.

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As many as 10,343 student visa applications had been received as of February 18, and one in every five was from India. Only 231 of the applications from India had been approved, while six were declined, immigration data shows.     

Celia Coombes, INZ's Director Visa, told The Indian Weekender that immigration officials have reported a 20 per cent increase in student visa applications for the 2023-24 intake, and "because of this increase, our processing times have been longer than previous years". 

It wasn't immediately clear whether this 20 per cent increase was benchmarked against last year when INZ received 61,511 student visa applications, much smaller volumes when compared to the nearly 100,000 student visa applications immigration officials processed every year between 2015 and 2019.  

Coombes said, “Prior to October 2023, we encouraged any potential applicants to apply early as we had forecast for higher application rates...We currently have around 86 staff processing international student visas," says Coombes.

Industry insiders say representatives from some of New Zealand's top universities met Immigration Minister Erica Stanford a few weeks back over the ongoing delays in processing student visas. Some institutions are reportedly worried their annual intake will be seriously impacted if the sluggishness continues.   

Coombes says universities have engaged with INZ directly, "and is something that happens regularly". "Because of this, some universities have raised their concerns around the time it takes to process some applications.

To address these concerns, we have asked the universities to help improve visa processing forecasting by sharing the number of offers of place they grant prospective students, at regular intervals. This information will help prepare the immigration system for the volumes that are expected and aid in our business planning."

Coombes says INZ has implemented several changes to address the processing concerns, including adding more staff to process student visa applications "and have given them improved assessment tools". 

Vandana Rai, Director of Auckland-based Immigration Advisers NZ Ltd, points out that INZ should have been able to predict the current volume of applications using their historical data analysis.

"Based on feedback from the industry, visa officers, faced with an increased workload and the pressure to make quick decisions, have lately resorted to using templated decline letters. To effectively attract high-quality international students, New Zealand must adopt a more nuanced and well-thought-out approach rather than resorting to these immediate, reflexive responses," she told The Indian Weekender.

Pawandeep Singh of Auckland-based Kiwiana Immigration points out several people who were given six-month tourist visas lately, in order to encourage tourism, had ample opportunity to explore options for additional study in New Zealand, which resulted in a rise in the number of onshore student visas. 

"We are currently handling a large volume of both onshore and offshore applications for student visas, and we are still awaiting a response for applications submitted more than two months ago. However, we have also observed a bit of inconsistency in the processing, as recently we got an approvals for few of our clients that were lodged less than one month ago. This inconsistency leads to unfairness for many who are awaiting since long."

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