Immigration New Zealand has announced that it would stop processing student visa applications from applicants outside the country until further notice, which will be a setback for students hoping to study in New Zealand.
Except for those with a vital intent who are the exception to the border ban, the New Zealand border is closed to most non-residents.
The government approved two student border exceptions earlier this year, one for 250 PhD and postgraduate students and 1,000 returning bachelor and doctoral students. Only students who have been nominated by their educational institution and the Ministry of Education are eligible to participate.
The most recent announcement affects both new and existing applications.
“No applications from students outside of New Zealand are being processed by INZ. In a presentation to education agents, it told students not to spend time and effort reviewing documents at this time.
The government agency has announced that it would process the majority of visas onshore, a move that the effect of Covid-19 will accelerate.
It has announced that visa processing and risk verification functions in Mumbai, Manila, and Pretoria will be phased out by the end of March 2021, with those offices closing by the end of August.
“Risk and verification will be continued by the New Delhi Office. Our Beijing office will no longer be able to process visas. The precise date will be decided later. In the presentation, INZ confirmed that Beijing would retain risk and verification functions.
“The calming influence of the United States remains unchanged. Over time, we will expand our offshore risk and verification network.”
Ravi Lochan Singh, the director of Global, representing all New Zealand universities in South Asia, described the decision as disappointing.
“It is incredibly disappointing that INZ has decided not to begin the student visa process for students from South Asia.
“It has taken decades of education agents working with New Zealand institutions to create a pull for it as a student destination, but the government’s current stance is derailing the goodwill built on the back of the country’s great work in controlling the virus.”
Students from outside the country do not need a visa to begin online studies with a New Zealand provider. Still, they should be aware that doing so does not guarantee them a student visa when applications reopen and that no offshore study counts against post-study work visa requirements. New Zealand will still require 30 weeks of full-time study in-country for a student to be eligible for PSW visas.
Students who previously studied in New Zealand and met the post-study work visa term criteria but were trapped offshore when the border closed are also unable to apply for post-study work visas at this time.
This is “due to the border restrictions and the offshore visa suspension that is in place to help the border restrictions,” according to INZ.
The Pathway Student Visa program, which was supposed to start this year, has been postponed. On a single visa, PSV permitted international students to enroll in three study programs at one or more qualifying education providers.
INZ had hoped to make the visa category permanent in early 2021. Still, due to the effects of Covid, existing eligibility targets are unlikely to be reached, and the PSV cannot be made permanent until “sometime after the border has opened.”
INZ has yet to announce when the moratorium on offshore visa processing will be lifted or when the country’s border controls will be relaxed.