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How will the New Zealand Post-Study Work Visa Changes Affect You?

The changes take effect from 26 November 2018. Find out the length of time you can work after completing your studies under the new rules.


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How will the New Zealand Post-Study Work Visa Changes Affect You?
Written by Crispin Aranda.
Updated August 13, 2018 | New Zealand

First, starting 26 November 2018, the Employer-assisted Post-Study Work Right will be removed or eliminated. From that date, all Post-Study Work Permits will be “Open” meaning the international student who completes an eligible course would not need an employer to gain practical experience or be authorized to work after studies.

Second why the changes?

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway explained the changes – specifically removing the employer-assisted post-study work permit at all levels “will help reduce the risk of migrant exploitation, and better protect New Zealand’s international reputation."

At the same time Minister Galloway believes the changes will  "boost New Zealand’s economy, reduce student exploitation and promote our regional education offerings".  You may click on this link for the interview of Minister Galloway- https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12062874

Third, what are these post-study work right visas?

An International Student (IS) who wish to stay in New Zealand and work after completion of a course of study may do so by applying for the right work visa.

The length of time an IS may work in New Zealand after course completion depends on the level of the qualification completed (Level 4 to 10) – it could be up to four years and possibly even permanent residency.

The current study to work pathway comes in two stages:

  1. Post-study work visa (open). This visa allows the IS up to 12 months to get a job in a field related to the completed studies. The IS is allowed to work in any job while looking for a job in his or her field.
  1. Post-study work visa (employer assisted). An IS may stay in New Zealand to gain work experience for another two years (or three years if work experience is required as part of a professional registration) after completing a New Zealand qualification in a specific level. The full-time job offer must be in the same area of the IS qualification.

Pathway to Resident Visa.  The employer-assisted visa (also called the Practical Experience post-study permit) could render the IS eligible to apply for an NZ resident visa under the Skilled Migrant Category – if, the work is in an occupation that has skill shortages. The list of occupations are in the Long Term Skills Shortage List (LTSSL).

Who will be affected?

Students currently taking an eligible course of study (from Level 4 to Level 10) would be able to transition into the new rules.

New (foreign, international) students intending to take up academic studies (Level 4 to 10).  The following excerpts of the different levels are taken from the New Zealand Qualification Authority website - https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/studying-in-new-zealand/understand-nz-quals/

  • Level 4 Certificate qualifies individuals to work or study in broad or specialized field(s)/areas.
  • Level 5 Certificate / Diploma qualifies individuals with theoretical and/or technical knowledge and skills within an aspect(s) of a specific field of work or study.
  • Level 6 Certificate/ Diploma qualifies individuals with theoretical and/or technical knowledge and skills in specialized/strategic contexts.
  • Level 7 could be a Graduate Certificate, Diploma, Graduate Diploma or Bachelor’s degree.

A Graduate Certificate is designed primarily as a vehicle for degree graduates to pursue further study at an advanced undergraduate level. The Graduate Certificate is typically designed as a bridging qualification to postgraduate study for individuals developing educational, professional or vocational knowledge in a new discipline, profession or subject area and/or as a broadening or deepening of skills or knowledge already gained in an undergraduate qualification.

Diploma Level 7 qualifies individuals with specialised and technical knowledge and skills within a professional context.

Graduate Diploma  allows degree graduates to pursue a significant body of study at an advanced undergraduate level. The Diploma is typically designed as a bridging qualification to postgraduate study as well as broadening knowledge and skills in a familiar subject or discipline, or developing knowledge in a new area.

Bachelor’s Degree provides individuals with a systematic and coherent introduction to a body of knowledge of a recognised major subject[1] (or subjects, in the case of a double degree or a double major) as well as to problem-solving and associated basic techniques of self-directed work and learning.

  • Level 8 Post-Graduate Certificate, Post Graduate Diploma or Bachelor Honours Degree

Post Graduate Certificate (PGC) is designed to extend and deepen an individual's knowledge and skills. It also involves credits from a specified subject and cognate areas.  It recognises continuing professional development or academic achievement in advance of a Bachelor's Degree in the same area as the individual's original degree or Graduate Certificate or Graduate Diploma.

Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) Like the PGC, the PGD is designed to extend and deepen an individual’s knowledge and skills by building on attainment in the principal subject(s) of the qualifying degree, Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate. In addition, a Postgraduate Diploma prepares an individual for independent research and scholarship in the principal subject of the diploma.  A Postgraduate Diploma may also be awarded with distinction.

Bachelor Honours Degree recognises distinguished study at level 8. It may either be a degree in itself, or a discrete postgraduate degree following a Bachelor's Degree. The award of honours recognises outstanding achievement, meritorious achievement or a pass; these may be termed first class honours, second class honours: first or second divisions, and third class honours.

  • Level 9 – Master’s Degree (MD), usually requires a Bachelor’s Degree, Graduate Diploma, Bachelor Honours Degree or a Postgraduate Diploma.  MD qualifies individuals who apply an advanced body of knowledge in a range of contexts for research, a pathway for further learning, professional practice and/or scholarship.  The Master’s Degree may be undertaken by taught courses, or research, or by a combination of both.
  • Level 10 Doctoral Degree s a research degree whereby the individual becomes an increasingly independent scholar who makes a substantial and original contribution to knowledge. The PhD/DPhil student’s development takes place under the guidance of recognized experts in the field of study and under circumstances that allow the individual access to appropriate research resources. Finally, the PhD/DPhil student contribution to knowledge is judged by independent experts applying contemporary international standards of the discipline.

What studies/qualifications would be eligible for the Open Post Study Permit?

The changes will affect students in different ways since the eligibility for the post-study work rights will depend o the type of qualification and location of study.  The table below, courtesy of Neew Zealand Immigration

shows the courses eligible for specific duration of work permit.

Qualification Level

Post-Study Work Permit Duration

Level 7 Bachelor’s degree qualification or higher (after minimum 30 weeks study in New Zealand.

3-year open post-study work visa

Level 7 Graduate Diploma – also after at lest 30 weeks of study in NZ

1-Year post-study work visa  if study in Auckland & another year if working towards an occupational registration

2-year open work study visa (OWSV) if outside Auckland (online or distance learning (O-DL) not included)

Other non-degree Level 7 (e.g., Diploma with 30-wk minimum studies)

1-year OWSV if study in Auckland

2-year OWSV if outside Auckland (O-DL not included

One qualification at Level 4 to 6 following at least 60 weeks study

1 year OWSV if study in Oakland

2 year OWSV if outside Auckland (no O-DL)

Two consecutive qualification at Level 4 to 6 (after 60 weeks study, 30 weeks per year and the 2nd qualification is at a higher level than the first)

1 year if study in Oakland.

2 year if study outside Oakland. Online or Distance Learning excluded)

What’s changing with post-study work visas?

New Zealand Immigration explains that “from 26 November 2018, the conditions and duration of post-study work visas will change.

Visa conditions:

  • Post-study work visas will be granted with ‘open’ work conditions.
  • This means that your (IS) work visa won’t be linked to any employer and the employer-assisted post-study work visa will no longer exist. You won’t need a job offer to get a post-study work visa.

Visa duration:

  • The open post-study work visa will be granted for one, two, or three years, or for the remainder of the time left on your visa if you (the IS) hold an existing employer-assisted visa.
  • The duration depends on various things, including the level of the qualification you have gained and where you completed your qualification.

About the Author

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.

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