Govt seeks to target 'back door' path to residency

The "back-door'' to New Zealand residency for lower-qualified international students may have led to students targeting New Zealand study as a path towards residency, rather than simply education purposes.

Iain Lees-Galloway
Iain Lees-Galloway
And officials advising the Government on immigration policy say the rise in international students becoming residents has lead to a "gradual decline in the average skill level of new permanent residents observed in the last five years''.

The advice is contained in ministerial briefings from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment from November, released under the Official Information Act.

The Labour-led Government wants to improve the integrity of the international education system to make sure it is focused on quality education for genuine students, and to remove the post-study "back door'' path to residency for lower-qualified international students.

International students can work in New Zealand under the post-study work visa after they finish studying, but this has allowed some students to become permanent residents who might not have otherwise been approved.

The briefing papers say students from India, in particular, show a higher rate of transition from student visa to permanent residency, "suggesting that students from some markets may be more driven by migration prospects than education quality when choosing to study in New Zealand''.

In 2016-17, 18,266 were granted a post-study visa. The papers say closing the "back door'' would affect between 9000 and 12,000 students.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has said he wants to prioritise matching migrant skills to the appropriate regions, cracking down on migrant exploitation, and closing the "back door'' path to residency.

Officials added international students who focus on residency rather than study are more open to potential exploitation from an employer.

"This is leaving them open to accepting arrangements to buy job offers, and thus become a party to immigration fraud, in order to gain residence.''

The briefing also says the growth in international student numbers had the potential to push out New Zealand workers and suppress wages, but there was limited data to show the extent of this. 

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