The new government and potential changes to the Study to Work pathway

by Jamie Nunns & Shehan Gunatunga - Morrison Kent

The new government is set to take New Zealand immigration policy in a new direction. Although we do not know the finer details just yet, the government has indicated that it will reduce net migration by 20,000-30,000 per year. There has been no confirmation of when changes might be implemented, but we could expect something before the New Year. This article focuses on one of the key rationales behind the proposed change of direction, and looks at the possible consequences in relation to the Study to Work visa pathway.

The government has made it clear that one of the key factors influencing the change to immigration policy is the desire for as many jobs as possible to be available to New Zealand residents and citizens. It follows that the Study to Work pathway, which does not fit with this rationale, will most likely be affected by the changes.

Currently, the Study to Work pathway it is open to international students who complete an acceptable New Zealand qualification, and provides them with a 12 month Post-Study Open Work Visa. This allows them to search for, and work in, any type of employment. Following that, migrants with a Post-Study Open Work Visa can apply for an Employer Assisted Work Visa once they have found and been offered employment relevant to their studies. That allows a further 2 year work visa.

The current pathway is designed to make employment accessible to migrants after they complete their studies. A prospective employer doesn’t have to first carry out a labour market test or look to hire a person who is already a New Zealand resident or citizen before offering the job to a migrant on an Open Work Visa.

If we look at this through the new government’s lens, migrants obtaining work via the Study to Work pathway might be filling jobs that could and should be available to New Zealand citizens and residents. This means that the pathway is vulnerable to review and restriction.

At this stage it is not yet clear how restrictive the changes will be, and what the full impact on these immigration categories will be. There has been no indication as to when changes might be implemented, but it would be logical for this to align with university and other education provider semester dates, given that it is a study-based immigration policy.

If you are considering immigrating to New Zealand, or applying for a new visa, it is best to get early advice as to your options. That way, you can factor the developing changes into your decision making.

If you would like any further information or advice please contact the article author Jamie Nunns  or the Morrison Kent Wellington office (04) 472-0020.


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