NZ enhances work rights for overseas students

October 10, 2013

New Zealand has announced a package of measures to support its international education sector, including extending the work rights for English language students scheme in Christchurch across the whole country.

photo: Tourism New Zealand

Other measures announced by Steven Joyce, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, include extended holiday work rights, restrictions on student visas for the lowest-rated institutions and a pilot scheme of streamlined visa processing for highly trusted providers.

From January 2014, English language students on courses of 14 weeks or longer will be eligible to work part-time during their studies with no minimum language proficiency requirement. The work rights privilege is only available to students enrolled at a university or with a provider rated as Category One by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). The measure is an extension of an approach that has been trialled in Christchurch since August 2012, a change that English language providers have been calling for.

Under the changes, students on courses of one year or more will be allowed to work full-time during all scheduled course breaks, while PhD and Masters by research students will have unlimited work rights, removing the current 20 hours per week limit.

Minister Joyce said the changes would help New Zealand attract students. “Competition for international students is intensifying around the world, and it’s important we stay competitive. The amendments to rules around international students working while they are studying will bring New Zealand in line with policies of similar countries, especially Australia, and make it easier for students to choose study here,” he said.

Another change is that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) will no longer grant visas to students applying to study at providers rated NZQA Category Four. “While we want more students to come to our shores to study, our focus has to be on providing them with the highest quality education New Zealand has to offer,” said INZ Minister Michael Woodhouse.

In a move towards streamlined visa processing, INZ will run a pilot scheme during 2014 with around 25 Category One providers in which the institutions will be able to decide, for individual students, whether to offer streamlined and prioritised visa processing or request that INZ undertake the usual assessments. When choosing streamlined visas, providers will take responsibility for ensuring the student has sufficient maintenance funds, has genuine intentions to study, meets course entry requirements and will adhere to visa conditions.

“This should be a win-win partnership that incentivises education providers to strive for high standards, select their students carefully and take more responsibility for good study outcomes,” said Woodhouse. He added the intention was that the pilot would be rolled out to all Category One providers in 2015.

Education New Zealand Chief Executive, Grant McPherson, welcomed the announcement. “While we believe that all of these changes will contribute to the growth of New Zealand’s international education industry, the industry partnership pilot represents a significant potential step forward. The pilot will enable high-quality providers to compete more effectively by being able to facilitate faster visa processing for their international students.”

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