New Zealand launches pilot for five-year pathway visa

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • New Zealand has launched an 18-month pilot for a new Pathway Student Visa
  • The pathway visa allows students to study with up to three different education providers over a five-year period, all without renewing the study visa
  • Pathway visa holders may also work during their studies, within the limits of existing immigration regulations in New Zealand
  • The pilot is limited to education institutions that meet defined government criteria for participation, including a 90% student visa approval rate over the previous 12 months

New Zealand has introduced a new pathway visa that will allow international students to study for three consecutive programmes over a five-year period, and all on a single visa.

Announced by Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse on 27 November 2015, the new Pathway Student Visa is being introduced via an 18-month pilot that kicked off on 7 December 2015. The pilot process will include more than 500 primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions across New Zealand.

On the strength of a renewed national branding initiative, the combined efforts of institutions and stakeholders, and an increasingly coordinated strategic approach to building its international market share, New Zealand has seen real gains in its international enrolment over the past three years.

The international education sector in New Zealand is now valued at NZ$2.85 billion (US$1.94 billion) and estimated to support 30,230 jobs. The government has established a target to increase its value to NZ$5 billion (US$3.4 billion) by 2025, suggesting in turn an objective of nearly doubling the current enrolment over the next decade. The new Pathway Student Visa is aimed squarely at this goal and is designed to boost New Zealand’s competitiveness in recruiting and retaining international students.

“The industry and Government believe that Pathway Student Visas will help retain more international students and make New Zealand more competitive with countries such as Australia, which already offer pathway programmes,” said Minister Joyce.

A related statement from Immigration New Zealand (INZ) adds that the 18-month trial “will enable INZ to evaluate pilot outcomes, such as student transition rates from the first to the second programme of study, and how well the arrangements between providers are working.”

The new visa will permit students to pursue a structured pathway of language and academic programmes – all of which must be provided by pilot-eligible education institutions. Holders of Pathway Student Visas may also work during their studies, so long as their planned study programmes are eligible for work rights under current immigration regulations.

“This is welcome news for students looking to New Zealand for their education journey,” says Ziena Jalil, the South and South East Asia Regional Director for Education New Zealand.

“This visa enables students to, for example, start their study with an English language course, transfer to a foundation programme for a year, and then go on to complete a degree programme.”

“At the moment a student would need to apply for three separate visas in this scenario. This news improves the New Zealand study experience – giving students more time to focus on choosing the right qualification, location of study and education provider that meets their study and career goals.”

The New Zealand government has put a number of safeguards in place for the pilot, including the following:

  • Participating education providers must have at least a 90% student visa approval rate over the previous 12 months;
  • Providers must also enter into a formal agreement with respect to ensuring appropriate student support services.

A pathway programme may be offered by a single institution or by multiple providers. A full list of participating institutions is available on the Immigration New Zealand website.

Application requirements

In order to apply for a pathway visa, students will require the following:

  • An offer of admission from a participating provider. In the case of programmes with multiple providers, Immigration New Zealand requires a joint covering letter from the providers setting out the combined study pathway along with an offer of admission from each institution.
  • Proof of funds, including tuition fees for the first programme in the pathway (or first year of study, whichever is shorter) as well as maintenance funds of NZ$15,000 (US$10,000) for the first year of study.

Students may apply online for faster processing, and further details for Pathway Student Visa applicants are available on the Immigration New Zealand website.



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