New Zealand has fine-tuned its post-study work rights settings to lure international students out of the country’s jam-packed major metropolis.
Under final changes to the rules, revealed on Wednesday, sub-degree students will be eligible to work in the country for an extra year if they study outside Auckland.
People who successfully complete graduate diploma courses will also qualify for an extra 12 months of employment, provided that they are working towards registration with professional or trade associations.
Immigration minister Iain Lees-Galloway said that the new arrangements had been designed to address skill needs and “incentivise study in the regions”.
“The changes preserve a pathway to residence for people with the skills and qualifications New Zealand needs,” he said. “They also provide time-limited incentives for students to study and work in the regions, boosting regional education providers and supporting our aims to lift regional investment and productivity.”
The new rules, which apply from November, include tweaks to a draft work rights regime unveiled in June. The government will persist with its key proposal of discarding a requirement for international graduates to obtain employer sponsorship if they want to work in the country for more than 12 months.
Instead, degree-level graduates will automatically qualify for three-year “open” work visas, in a move designed to curtail workplace exploitation.
While the government originally proposed to limit sub-degree graduates to a year’s post-study work, this will now be doubled for those who undertake their courses outside Auckland.
The concession, which lasts until 2021, comes amid growing public concern that the city’s creaking infrastructure cannot keep pace with population growth.
Representative body Universities NZ said the rule changes would boost the international education industry. “Providing good graduate outcomes is key to attracting the best students from overseas,” said executive director Chris Whelan.
“International education is a valuable export earner for New Zealand, but this is about more than export earnings and migration. The two-way flow of people between New Zealand and the rest of the world is critical for New Zealand and its people.”
The government will also soften requirements on international postgraduates seeking work rights or free schooling for their dependants.
Under the June proposals, only postgraduates in specified skill shortage areas would have qualified for these privileges. But that requirement will no longer apply to those studying at master’s level.