Immigration Minister Iain Lees Galloway is currently consulting and policy analysts are busy with proposed changes to work rights for overseas students and implementing Labour Market Testing that is fit for purpose.
It is a fine balance when reducing the attractiveness of New Zealand as a short term study destination when overall the sector reportedly generates more than $2 billion annually in foreign exchange earnings alone along with cultural and educational benefits. We have came a long way since the Colombo Plan students to the full fee paying private students operating in a market driven economy.
I have always found meeting ex students and learning of their achievements to be very rewarding. Previously overseas students, other than very short term English language students, studied academic courses, most graduated and where fully focused on securing good jobs and developing their careers whether it be in their home countries or in New Zealand.
The influx of shorter term students seeking a pathway to residence and education as a revenue source certainly has lead to student exploitation damaging New Zealand’s reputation and lowering the calibre of residence candidates.
Exploitation can’t be tolerated and I support the rebalancing of rules which will distinguish between genuine students and those using student visas simply to obtain entry to New Zealand. Nils has provided an overview of the proposed changes to student visas.
The recent announcement of a Kiwibuild Shortage List and the expansion of employer accreditation recognises that the Kiwibuild program is unable to be realised without the assistance of migrant workers to fill construction vacancies. Jeremy has summarised the proposal and I hope this announcement will encourage New Zealand construction sector employers to continue and expand their operations.
If the proposals include removing the requirement for a employer specific post graduation work visa along with changing the period granted. Three years for those graduating at degree level and above and one year for those graduating below degree level. The latter will need to have studied for in a course for at least two years in New Zealand.
Non specific employer work visas allow the holder to change employer and this proposal is aimed at reducing the opportunity for unscrupulous employers to take advantage of these students.
Rules changes for student’s partners being eligible for open work visas and for their children to be deemed domestic students, and therefore exempt from foreign fees school fees, is also proposed.
The Labour lead Government has acknowledged a shortfall of 30,000 construction workers nationwide and has signalled its intention to abolish their plan for the KiwiBuild Visa category, in favour of processes similar to that used post quake Canterbury.
This includes another skills shortage list, named the KiwiBuild Skills Shortages List, an expansion of employer accreditation for construction companies and additional accreditation requirements for labour hire companies being rolled out nationwide.
Simply put and the devil will be in the detail, occupations along with minimum levels of qualifications/work experience will be published and employers can obtain pre approval by becoming an Immigration New Zealand (INZ) accredited employer.
The proposal aims to reduce time frames for construction visas, ensure New Zealanders are given priority to be employed and upskilled, along with measures to reduce migrant exploitation.