Education is one of New Zealand’s top five export industries, contributing approximately $2.3 billion to the New Zealand economy each year and supporting 32,000 jobs. Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has made some critical changes to the Student Visa policies recently.

New changes to student immigration policies are aimed at attracting a larger number of genuine international students, and also enabling the best and brightest among them to stay in New Zealand to help drive economic growth through increased productivity and innovation.

The new Immigration policy changes took effect from the 25th of July 2011. The main focus of these changes is to facilitate work and residence pathways for highly skilled graduates.

A student graduating from a course of study in New Zealand can hold a twelve-month Graduate Job Search visa, which enables them to start working in any job for any employer. If the student is able to secure a job which is in the long term skilled job offer that is relevant to their qualification, they can apply for a Graduate Work Experience visa for two years. If the student is working towards obtaining membership or registration from a New Zealand professional association which requires more than two years of relevant practical work experience, they can apply for a three-year work visa.

From 25 July 2011

More criteria will be introduced to determine whether students are genuinely here to study, such as ensuring education providers have assessed students’ competencies for the course before issuing an offer of place. Students will be required to attend their courses at all times, as required, unless they have genuine reasons for their absence.

Immigration New Zealand will have more powers to ensure that students are only granted student visas to study at good quality education providers.

Work visas will only be available to the partners of students studying postgraduate courses and courses on the Long Term Skills Shortage List (LTSSL) at level 7 (bachelor’s degree level) and above, rather than to the partners of any students studying courses on the Long Term Skill Shortage List.

Students who obtain a second, higher qualification bachelor’s degree or postgraduate level, will be able to obtain a second Graduate Job Search visa.

The new objective will ensure that the primary purpose of the policy is for the purpose of linking New Zealand employers with highly skilled graduates and provide a pathway to residence for those students.

New changes to be implemented from 2 April 2012:

To qualify for Study to Work visas, students will need to have obtained a recognized New Zealand qualification of at least two academic years’ (a minimum of four semesters and 16 months in total) duration unless they have obtained:
    • A postgraduate qualification of at least one academic year’s duration.
    • A credit-transferred bachelors’ degree with at least one year’s study in New Zealand.
    • Any level seven qualification of at least one academic year’s duration.
Changes to the Financial Requirements from April 2012 :
Funds required for student visa applicants will increase from the current $10,000 per year to $15,000 per year for courses 36 weeks or longer, or pro-rated at $1,250 per month for shorter courses (less prepaid living expenses)

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