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Immigration NZ (INZ) has been actively making changes to its policies in order to better align them with current economic and social conditions. As we move towards year end, the latest changes made by INZ has been towards post-study work rights for international students and remuneration thresholds for both the Essential Skills Category (work visas), as well as the Skilled Migrant Category (residence visas). Both these changes are effective from 26 November 2018.

Live video on Facebook

We recently conducted a Facebook live event during which we discussed these changes in detail. You can watch this video below.

Changes to Post-Study Work Rights

On August 8 2018, the government announced changes to post-study work visa policy. These changes have been introduced with the aim of attracting students towards higher level courses which further contribute to the skills and qualifications needed in NZ. It is to be noted that these changes provide generous post-study work rights to a) those who choose to study outside Auckland and b) who choose to study degree L7 or above qualifications. At the same time, a transitional policy has been introduced for those who had applied for or already held a student visa on the 8 August 2018.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what the changes will lead to:

  • remove the employer-assisted post-study work visas at all levels
  • provide a 1-year Post-study open work visa for students studying Level 4 to 6 and non-degree Level 7 qualifications, with an additional year for Graduate Diploma graduates who are working towards registration with a professional or trade body
  • provide a 2-year Post-study open work visa for students studying Level 4 to 6 and non-degree Level 7 qualifications outside Auckland, provided study is completed by December 2021, at which point the entitlement for post-study work rights reverts to a 1-year Post-study open work visa
  • provide a 3-year Post-study open work visa for a Bachelor degree at Level 7 or above qualifications
  • require international students studying Level 8 qualifications to be in an area specified on the Long Term Skill Shortage list in order for their partner to be eligible for an open work visa.

So what does this mean for students?

For future students, these changes could prove to be a boon provided they weigh their choices intelligently. If you are planning to take a below degree level qualification, your best bet may be outside Auckland as you may be eligible for two years post-study open work visa instead of one. As a student gets more time to work in NZ, he/she gets more skilled and experienced thus opening pathways for work and residence visa. More has been discussed about this in our previous article here.

Choosing a degree Level 7 or above qualification would mean taking complete advantage of generous post-study work rights where you may be eligible for a three-year open work visa and this might help you to progress towards residence pathways.

As for current students and open work visa holders, they are celebrating the change. As long as the current students meet the requirements, they will be eligible for a three-year open post-study work visa. At the same time, for those who currently held open-work visa, they will become eligible for a further two-year open work visa while post-study employer-assisted work visa holders can get employer conditions removed from their visa after 26th November 2018.

And for the rest of the stakeholders?

With these changes, we will see students opting to study out of Auckland for below degree qualifications which signal a huge impact on Private Training Establishments (PTEs) inside Auckland as their student numbers will dwindle. On the other hand, more students will choose to study higher qualification which is usually offered by Universities or Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs). It is in line with the current ITP Roadmap 2020 work being carried out by the Tertiary Education Commission on the long-term viability of ITPs.

Also, it will promote growth throughout all the regions of NZ as the government aims to lift regional investment, growth, and productivity. Students will move out of Auckland bringing investment and growth in those regions.

Changes to income Thresholds

As part of government’s annual review, remuneration thresholds have been increased for Essential Skills work visa and Skilled Migrant Category resident visa.

For those applying for a resident visa under Skilled Migrant Category after 26th November 2018, following are the threshold requirements:

  • $25.00 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary) for an employment in an occupation at ANZSCO skill level 1-3 for a visa to be granted under medium skilled for up to 3 years duration.
  • $37.50 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary) for employment in an occupation at ANZSCO 4-5, or which is not included in ANZSCO for a visa to be granted under medium skilled for up to 3 years duration.
  • $50 per hour for bonus points for high remuneration

For applicants of work visa under Essential Skills Category, following thresholds will apply:

  • $21.25 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary) for employment in an occupation at ANZSCO 1-3 for a visa to be granted under medium skilled category
  • $37.50 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary) for employment in any occupation (including those at ANZSCO 4-5 or those with no specific ANZSCO match)  for a visa to be granted under medium skilled category

This does not impact current visa holders but for those planning to apply for a visa soon, it is crucial. For example, if a chef earning $21 per hour applies for a visa before 26th November he would be considered mid-skilled but if he applies after 26th November would be considered low skilled, unless the pay is increased to above the new threshold of $21.25. So it might be important for many applicants to act quickly before the new rules kick in.

As the government aims to reflect median salary and wage range for different levels of occupation, it is likely that these will thresholds will be adjusted as and when a review is conducted next year.

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