Changes to the Post-Study Work Visa Category

by Morrison Kent - Shehan Gunatunga


At present, an international graduate student can obtain a post-study open work visa (“PSWV”) for a period of up to 12 months to search for employment relevant to their New Zealand qualification. If successful in obtaining employment specific to their New Zealand qualification, the graduate may obtain an employer-assisted post-study work visa (“EAPSWV”) to allow them to work in New Zealand for up to an additional three years. This pathway is discussed further in our article, Immigrating to New Zealand – Transitioning from Study to Work

The November 2018 policy change will restructure the PSWV category and remove the EAPSWV altogether. Instead, the policy will be tailored towards allowing migrants with higher New Zealand qualifications to obtain longer PSWVs. As the PSWVs will be “open” rather than linked to a specific employer, migrants will be able to work in employment unrelated to their New Zealand qualification for the duration of their visas.


• Students obtaining Level 4 (Certificate) to 6 (Certificate/Diploma) and non-degree Level 7 (Graduate Certificate/Graduate Diploma) qualifications will be able to obtain a one-year PSWV. Those with a Graduate Diploma may be granted an additional year if they are working towards registration with a professional or trade body.

• Students obtaining Level 4 – 6 and non-degree Level 7 qualifications outside Auckland will be able to obtain a two-year PSWV, provided their study is completed by December 2021 (after which, work rights will revert to the above).

• Students obtaining degree Level 7 (Bachelor’s Degree) qualifications will be able to obtain a three-year PSWV.

• International students studying Level 8 qualifications (Postgraduate Certificate/Postgraduate Diploma/Bachelor Honours Degree) will need to be in an area specified on the Long Term Skills shortage list for their partner to be eligible for an open work visa and partners’ dependent children to qualify for fee-free domestic schooling.

The New Zealand Qualifications authority provides further information about qualifications types on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.


The policy change will benefit international students undertaking to obtain high-level qualifications. At the same time, it will also affect migrants’ ability to use the PSWV category for gaining New Zealand work experience to get residence. Those with lower qualifications will have comparatively shorter work rights under the new study to work pathway. Also, migrants must be careful not to forego seeking employment relating to their New Zealand qualification in preference of other jobs if they wish to obtain New Zealand work experience to apply for residence in categories such as the Skilled Migrant Work category.


If you are coming to the end of your student visa, contemplating study or would like further information or advice on New Zealand’s immigration laws, please feel free to contact our immigration expert Shehan Gunatunga on o4 495 8923 or email

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