International graduates who were supposed to be on a post-study work visa in New Zealand during the Covid pandemic have been offered a 12-month visa in a new raft of immigration policies.
An 1,800-strong cohort of international graduates from New Zealand universities will be eligible.
“We are authorising a 12-month open work visa for approximately 1,800 previous holders of post-study work visas who missed out because of the border closures in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said immigration minister Michael Wood in a press conference on Monday, accompanied by PM Jacinda Ardern.
The visa will only apply, however, if those eligible are not already in New Zealand on another visa. According to Universities New Zealand communications manager Guy Somerset, this isn’t a satisfactory way to honour the loss of time that the graduates suffered.
“It is a positive step but we would have liked to see our graduates entitled to the full three years of post-study work rights,” Somerset told The PIE News.
“We don’t currently know what graduates’ reactions are to the news but it is likely many will have taken up opportunities elsewhere,” he commented.
Despite this cohort only gaining back one year of their originally entitled-three year post-study work visa, Wood has insisted in a recent webinar that international students “have the right to job access”.
“Many of them secure employment in the field of their study,” he said in the Indian Newslink webinar.
“It is likely many will have taken up opportunities elsewhere”
“There are good opportunities for graduates in engineering, medicine, and other professionals. Two or three years thereafter, they can apply for residency,” he acknowledged.
He also vowed in the interview that Immigration New Zealand wants to facilitate eligible students “from various parts of the world” to go to New Zealand for higher education, and promised to work “closely with Education New Zealand”.
Despite the ongoing labour shortage that the immigration “rebalance” just announced is aiming to address, Wood said that the value brought by international students is indeed recognised by the government, but the “emphasis will be on quality, not quantity”.
Education minister Chris Hipkins has previously spoken about ‘value over volume’ being at the heart of the country’s international education strategy.
As part of the immigration overhaul, 13 professions have been added to the green list and the straight to residence pathway has been expanded to include all doctors and nurses.
Teachers who come to the country will also have the opportunity to go onto a work to residence pathway.