The Government is proposing removing the requirement for post-study work visas to be sponsored by an employer because 'too many students are being sold a false dream'

The Government is proposing removing the requirement for post-study work visas to be sponsored by an employer because 'too many students are being sold a false dream'
Iain Lees-Galloway by Jacky Carpenter. ©

The Government is proposing removing the requirement for post-study work visas to be sponsored by an employer because "too many students are being sold a false dream."

The policy would affect between 12,000-16,000 students and will result in $260 million in lost revenue in the education sector.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says the proposed changes will help eliminate migrant exploitation and make sure that migrants granted residency "contribute the skills that New Zealand needs."

He says too many international students are being falsely sold a story that the current post-study work rights can put students on a fast track to residency in New Zealand.

“This has led to a decline in the general skill level of migrants granted permanent residency, and fraudulent and frankly unethical behaviour from some agents, employers and education providers has led to students being exploited."

Lees-Galloway is suggesting removing the requirement for post-study work visas to be sponsored by a particular employer. 

Speaking to The Nation, he says the $260 million in lost revenue will come out of low-quality courses where "students are getting an education that isn't of much value to them."

New Zealand's education sector is worth $4.5 billion.

Lees-Galloway expects the proposed policy to have a number of effects.

"One is some people will decide not to come, they won't see that easy path to residency and will decide not to come.

He says some students may choose to study at a degree level instead, which will be good for both them and the education system because it's a better value proposition.

"We're not that fixated on the numbers in terms of how many students come here, what we're interested in is improving our immigration settings and improving our export education."

If adopted, the policy will not affect current student visas or post-study visas, Lees-Galloway says. 

The proposed changes going out for consultation include:

·       Remove the requirement for post-study work visas to be sponsored by a particular employer,

·       Provide a one-year post-study work visa for non-degree level 7 or below qualifications,

·       Provide a three-year post-study work visa for degree level 7 or above qualifications,

·       Require students completing non-degree level 7 or below qualifications to undertake at least two years of study in order to gain eligibility for post-study work rights, and,

·       Require international students studying level 8 or 9 qualifications to be in an area specified in the Long Term Skills Shortage List in order for their partner to be eligible for an open work visa, and in turn the partner’s dependent children to be eligible for fee-free compulsory schooling.

The public will have the chance to have its say on these changes with consultation opening on Tuesday 5 June.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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This sounds like a tightening of the rules, but may actually end up being a loosening up of policy allowing and encouraging more international students into L7 Grad Diplomas, and 1 year Postgrad Diplomas.
The Government is still underfunding University’s and Polytechnics so they are forced to make up the 20% shortfall by recruiting full fee paying international students, for purely financial reasons rather than for cultural enrichment reasons or for skills fulfilment reasons.
A 1 year Diploma, even at Level 7 or 8 is simply not realistic or sufficient to train a ESL student for the professional workforce. So the courses are being sold to students on the promise of a work visa and industry work, but the reality will be no industry related job for most of these graduates.

Likewise most three year degrees are used purely as an initial filter by prospective employers. The reality is most skills are acquired on the job. Both educators and employers need to stop the charade that more/higher level qualifications are the solution to unemployment and/or poor productivity.

I agree. These changes still have nothing to do with skill shortages whatsoever. The most common course majors among Asian students (who make up more than 70% of international students) are hospitality management and business. I don't think we have any shortage in those industries.

Agree – most Asian students when asked talk of being “businessmen” – some sort of generic term for goodness knows what.

To make a sweeping statement I would say this goverment is reserving jobs that dont need degrees for its citizens.
Post grad jobs will be available to immigrants if there is a skills shortage.
Polytechnics are loosing money at present but govt may have a cunning plan that secondary will like by relieving secondary of their less academically inclined.
Win win

It makes little sense for secondary schools to acquire the facilities and equipment necessary to teach woodwork and related trades-type courses. Far better to bus students to the polytechnics for these classes. As you say, win-win.


I'd like to see the govt seriously review the investor visa category. That seems like a visa that really offers little positive value to NZ

Agreed. Where is the evidence that they create growth and exports (excluding Tourism)? And can anyone explain why there are 40 Chinese 'investor' visas for each Indian whereas indians are usually educated in English, have historic ties via the commonwealth and have created or managed many USA?successful businesses in UK & USA?

Here are the criteria for investor visas:

Most of them are fine, however I have concerns with the 'Commercial Property' and 'Residential Property Development' criteria. Buying several million dollars of commercial property seems to offer minimal benefit to NZ, as does building just a handful of houses.


My Chinese neighbour got residency by buying a small crappy commercial complex in South Auckland. He spends most of the day lazing around his property, and his parent-in-laws seem to be living off him and our government....

Surely the answer is to close this visa extension off except to masters level (or higher) students? That way you are ensuring the academic quality of applicants and placing people into a career trajectory where exploitation would be very unlikely. You are striking a balance between our need for postgraduate students and the associated skills while making sure their introduction to New Zealand life also meets their expectations. It's fair and ethical.

Nice idea, unfortunately the ‘Bachelor’ degrees that are presented for entry/used by many incoming Postgrad international students are woefully deficient and are not equivalent to NZ undergrad degrees. These students may not even be able to use MS Office, cannot write independently in English, and cannot express original ideas. Their English level is also too low for genuine study at Masters level.
What are university lecturers and programme leaders supposed to do with these students? They often spend more time on plagiarism checking and evaluating academic integrity than they do actually teaching the curriculum.

Nice idea. Over half the PhDs studying Science or Engineering at UK Cambridge uni are foreign and many work for very high tech high-profit businesses near Cambridge. Helps keep Cambridge's way higher reputation than any other European uni (except Oxford).
If we clear out the weak and the average and then searched for the exceptional we would help our economy instead of importing 3rd world wages.

NZ is receiving very few at that caliber.
Here is the destination country list for Asian students:
We are last on the list, trying to incentivise by giving away work visas. The work visas are designed to attract the student to enrol, not to meet any industry demand.
Then after NZ at the bottom of the list, then the students run through another list:
Universities first,
Then ITPs
Then PTEs
So NZ is receiving into their PTEs all the students who can’t gain admission to the US, UK, Canada, Australia, etc, then the ones who can’t get into the NZ Unis, etc

The guys coming out are a bunch of free-loaders. They will sit around telling people how important they are to the economy and how much better off we are for having them but its rubbish, if they are that good - why don't they just stay in their third world countries and set the world on fire there? They are just free loading off jobs and salaries provided in first world NZ and turning it into a third world country in the process.

I don’t think you can blame the students - they are simply taking opportunities offered to them of a possible better economic life. INZ has offices throughout and a big staff presence in India via EdNZ strongly selling student visas to NZ. This is a deliberate NZ Govt strategy to fund NZ tertiary education enterprises.

Alot of these guys running these PTEs are immigrants themselves. In India the caste system is alive and kicking, its quite acceptable to exploit a person due to their caste. The practice of cultural self entitlement to become a beneficiary of exploitative arrangement's with fellow immigrants is deplorable!

They weren't INZ staff but agents for INZ in India. I do think that INZ did step up its efforts in India deliberately once int'l student numbers from Japan and China started falling off. The Indian student story broke before the election (Winston Peters lead much of the charge in Parliament) and National began tidying that up a bit at the end of their term in office.

Labour boosted the labour inspectorate as soon as it got into office to uncover/police more of the employment abuses going on locally.

I think/hope the instance of fraudulent visa applications and unscrupulous INZ agents in India has diminished considerably.

Yes, the National government came up with and implemented the student work visa in response to declining enrollments, particularly from China and Japan, as our reputation for pastoral care of these int'l students took a big hit early on in the National government's term. To bring int'l enrollments back up, they implemented the student work visa. But this didn't attract the mainland Chinese, Singaporean and Japanese students back (as few of them came here for work reasons in the first place, rather it was the English language education).
And most of our earlier int'l students were from families well able to pay for their children's tertiary education in full and/or were here on some kind of scholarship.

When the student work visa came online, it was mainly India, Pakistan, Malaysia I think that were attracted to the work and study at the same time option. It was really the work they sought (along with a path to residency) and the study became the 'cost' of working here. It's no wonder a whole new industry sprouted up in PTEs, to cater for the new market arising from the student visa changes.

Thing is, it "got away" on the National government very, very quickly. They didn't know what "hit them" so to speak. And then, what were they going to do, as suddenly the non-skilled service industry also burgeoned in size and these low paid/no paid workers all became essential to that industry.

Labour are now cleaning that mess up.

Hopefully the current Govt can clean this up.
It is going to cost the Govt as the universities, ITPs, & PTEs are going to lose income, & many of them are already in serious financial deficits.
Why would the NZ Govt allow every university and polytechnic in the country, from Southland/Dunedin, Chch, Wellington, etc to setup multiple ‘campuses’ in Auckland simply to enrol/teach international students solely for income purposes?
The answer to this possibly is that it has allowed the Govt to spend less on Tertiary education as they know that providers will recruit the maximum number of international students they can to survive financially, while NZQA turns a blind eye to this.

NZQA has new instructions and they are clear - no more blind eye.

Why would we continue to maintain and enable harmful low wage service industries Kate. Let them fall over. To build a high income nation some changes are neccessary.

Almost a third of the population holds a Bachelors degree at this point so it's not going to be a substantial enough skill set to ensure skilled employment opportunities that guarantee fair wages. Regarding your latter question, pass those that make the grade and fail those that don't - as has been very traditional in education.

Pass/Fail Students: You may be interested that the Tertiary Education Commission, which funds tertiary providers expects providers to maintain pass rates of 80%+ otherwise there are financial penalties.
So tertiary staff are under pressure to pass most students, international students included.
Take a look at the completion rate statistics, e,g, Wanaanga at 100%, PTEs at 95%, etc
If you have clients at your business having paid $23,000 in fees, then there is an expectation that you will deliver positive outcomes for them.

I'm not advocating that universities be restricted in offering undergraduate educations to overseas students, but I would advocate that the right to work be only applied to masters level students visas. The visa system can be reformed to manifest both excellent outcomes both for New Zealand and the new immigrants she welcomes. Presently it fails in it's duty to both but I don't see treating just the symptoms as palatable.

3 year Bachelors degrees (NZ) are more rigorous then many of the shortened postgrad or masters degrees many have been developed mainly for the international market - which is another issue). Masters degrees are largely written conceptual studies, & the incoming students have ‘degrees’ from country of origin which have not equipped them adequately.
Any tertiary study by an international student should be for a minimum of 2 years, preferably 3, if the intention is to meet a skill gap in NZ industry. The problem is many cannot afford this - they can only afford 1 year - hence the programmes developed purely for the international market. And at L7 & 8, 1 year = work visa.


At the end of the day if you bring in people from the third world you end up with a third world country. If you bring in people from countries with corruption problems you end up with a country with corruption problems. Hundreds of thousands of people have been brought in to work in low end jobs. They didn't bring in another F&P health care and high end jobs they brought in alot of service workers for the service sector. You don't get rich selling coffee to each other or fixing up busted PC's,

You are wrong about third world people. Asian migrants have the highest household income in the US among foreign-born families, Indians rank number one out of 102 others. A joint Duke University – UC Berkeley study revealed that Indian immigrants have founded more engineering and technology companies from 1995 to 2005 than immigrants from the UK, China, Taiwan and Japan combined.

The problem is NZ's economic setting that ensures more profitability from low productive industries such as bulk commodities and housing. Even Harvard Uni invested some of its $37 billion endowment fund buying dairy farms in NZ despite most of its investments worldwide are in intellectual property-related ventures.

Until we attract more foreign and domestic capital into high-value industries, not many talented Asian engineers and scientists will be choosing NZ over US and Canada for better career prospects.

A very good comment. It all depends on how immigration is handled not where they come from. The single most successful immigrant group in the USA are Muslim's of Indian origin whereas in the UK their biggest immigration problem is with Muslims from Kashmir; problems with poverty and benefits, numerous gang rapes that the authorities tried to ignore, problems with inbreeding and problems with local government corruption. So the best and the worst both started from much the same place but the UK govt didn't pay attention to a problem that has grown over 50 years.
So INZ do need to pay attention and do their job which ought to be making NZ better for all citizens and not pretending there are no problems.

Hold on here - HP was started in a garage, I was involved in a startup - in 3 years we were big enough to float on the NZSX, we started with 4 guys with hammers, and that company grew because I went to the USA and worked in the USA and brought back 'know how' from the US high tech sector. We need first world 'know how' not 'third world' know how! My experience has been that once you have IP you can get finance, but you need IP 'first'.


Iain Lees-Galloway should be congratulated. His proposals may not be perfect - some good comments have been made above - but at long last a politician willing to admit there is a problem.


Bring in a couple of hundred thousand Swiss and see what kind of results one gets compared to the lot we've got now. We've got poorer as a result of our immigration settings and its a world wide problem. Brexit in the UK, Trump in the US, people don't want uncontrolled immigration from 3rd world countries. In NZ we have the ability to fix it. We have sea as our borders and our problems have been caused by poor immigration settings.
Its only natural that people from the third world would want to come to NZ, but by letting them in they bring in their problems and these problems are very hard to remove as they are cultural, in some countries there is the expectation that doctors receive money and gifts prior to operations in the public sector as one example we are now seeing in NZ.

And those immigration settings have long been contested by Maori as being in breach of the Treaty of Waitangi - you'll find this article (written in 1993!) very interesting and thought-provoking;

Our immigration settings have severely disadvantagd Maori over many decades... it is high time we started recognising that.

Why would a swiss person come to New Zealand!? You'd be hard pressed to convince a couple of *thousand*.

Because of America's Cup stoopid.

In the last 2 years there have been 6 cases where women have had their faces burnt with Acid in NZ, its absolutely horrific seeing these things within the NZ police system, as for statistics on the benefits of immigration from the third world, if the entire populations of Iceland and Madagascar swapped countries in 30 years, I would put my money on the Icelandic population to have the better place to live. US immigration policy is informed by RAND in Santa Monica and the latest simulations and analysis show that large scale uncontrolled Mexican immigration across the border will cause the US to regress to a mid-tier ranked OECD country in respect to GPD per capita. Everyone in the policy modelling world knows the importance of RAND.

finally, changes being made, i will be interested to see if wage inflation improves or as many of us suspect this was one big scam and the businesses involved close up and move on


Vertically-integrated scam all right. Fake education diploma mills working together with fake businesses paid under the table for fake job offers, and a few shonky boarding houses to take what little remains in rent, and all for the benefit of organised crime. Nobody else is getting anything out of this.

The academic system is being colonised by a bunch cooked up paper pushers from these third world countries. They get in by being supervised (and then employed) by their fellow countrymen, they push papers in journals that are blind refereed by their mates. These guys aren't inventing new technologies for a living - they are collectively pushing cooked up papers and bringing in a group of students from the third world to supervise to repeat the process. We need a full on purge of the education system! They did it after German unification - the Germans realised that the practices in East German Universities would only wreck a united Germany so they purged the system of Eastern Germans who were anything less than impeccable. If you talk to German academics and students - they all know who the real deal are - its they guys who were West Germans brought up on first world technology and making a living building first world technology. Its what everyone wants - none of that other crap.

Before... strike that... after the horse has bolted it would be good to note this would affect students of all countries around the world, with various skilled and unskilled education qualifications. Gone may be the cheap underqualified teacher from the UK, the skilled doctor from Russia, the mathematical genius from Mongolia, the eco business manager from the US and the experienced chemist from China. I am not saying they are not valid arguments but it is good to keep and eye on the prize instead of resorting to first world, third world attacks. We must recognise the loophole that has been willfully created and abused for a generation as a cheap and easy backdoor is widely used by those seeking to exploit migrants of any nation and a detriment to the local residents. It is not a system that rewards highly skilled students or provides better employment environments for anyone. It is a system that was made and designed to abuse those participating in it as much as those who would lose employment opportunities through reduced demand & loss of NZder training systems (e.g. loss of graduate employment for NZders, loss of on the job training encouraging career growth, no retraining into different fields and limited apprenticeships, increased & still prevalent discrimination through ageism, disability, sex etc).

If discussing who should have the opportunity for permanent residency then it is skill and the only accurate definition of skill is salary and that is easily checked by cross-referencing with IRD. But the only proposed changes are for work permits for students. On that basis the Mongolian mathematician is the only one likely to be studying for a PhD and we would be lucky to get him. Maybe the skilled doctor and the experienced chemist want to study in NZ - if the study is new research it will be PhD too. All the rest - no work visa for after studies end.

I find it infuriating watching groups of people from the third world running around whacking up those chorus fibre lines everywhere. When I use to travel through the third world and look at the level of wiring infrastructure, I'd have a bit of a giggle, take a few photos and give them to a couple of staff members in the ITP sector to show their students of what third world infrastructure looks like, but then we got all of these cheapies to do fibre wiring contracts for chorus from third world countries. Overhead wires cris-crossed every where, its a bloody eye sore. The thing is people have this third world infrastructure installed and moan about the eye sore and then get use to it. It becomes the new normal, people get use to living in a country with third world infrastructure. These people need to be sent home, they are guilty of wrecking the country!

I've never met an Indian I didn't like with the one exception being the Indian in charge of installing a fibre modem in my house. He treated his Indian junior colleague as if he was a slave - very embarrassing verbal put downs. If he had spoken like that to any Kiwi he would have received a knuckle sandwich. Why does a job that needs physical skills and technical knowledge require a foreigner? Something deeply wrong with NZ education - too many unemployed graduates in business and commerce and too few people who can do things.

Always remember that no one can hose Kiwiland (NZ) better than a kiwi. Sir John Key and his team wanted to bring people (high immigration) just to increase the short term demand which keeps housing propped up. Home owners and investors enjoyed rise in property values but remember, everything comes with a hidden cost.

Under National we robbed Peter to pay Paul. Under Labour its looking like we're going to rob Paul to pay Peter...

What I'm trying to get my head around, is why we need to keep robbing one another to make our society function?

Because these days everybody wants something but want's somebody else to work for it. That's why Social Welfare and Property Investment are so popular these days.

Capital Gains? No worries, someone else will pay for my luxury through a higher than necessary mortgage.

Working for Families, an "Urban Farming Subsidy". The more livestock you have, the more you get paid.