New Zealand relaxes work visa criteria for spouses of international students

New Zealand has revised its immigration policies, allowing partners of international students enrolled in specific higher education programs to qualify for work visas.

These changes aim to make New Zealand a more attractive destination for both students and their families by easing work eligibility criteria.

Under the revised guidelines, spouses of students enrolled in specific higher education programs, particularly those aligned with New Zealand’s Green List occupations, are now eligible for work visas.

This applies to partners of students studying Level 7 or 8 qualifications, which include graduate certificates, graduate diplomas, Bachelor’s degrees, postgraduate certificates, postgraduate diplomas, and Bachelor’s Honours degrees.

The Green List identifies occupations in high demand across New Zealand. Partners of students enrolled in these listed qualifications may now have an expedited route to residency, potentially securing immediate residence or after two years of working in their qualified roles. This update reflects New Zealand’s commitment to attracting skilled talent and supporting the families of international students.

What we know

Students holding valid visas can support various visa applications for their partners and dependent children. Partners of students can now apply for a “Partner of a Student Work Visa” if the student is enrolled in an eligible Level 7 or 8 qualification as per the Green List.

This work visa grants open conditions, meaning it does not require a pre-existing job offer in New Zealand, providing greater flexibility for the visa holders to seek employment.

The updated Green List includes a comprehensive range of Bachelor’s degrees and Bachelor’s Honours qualifications that lead to professional registration, rather than just meeting the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) standards. This adjustment acknowledges the importance of specific qualifications that directly correlate with professional registrations needed for certain occupations.

Partners holding the newly accessible work visas can also support their dependent school-aged children, allowing them to apply for a Dependent Child Student Visa. This provision treats these children as domestic students, thereby exempting them from international tuition fees for attending school in New Zealand.

What you should know

Nairametrics reported earlier that New Zealand tightened work visa regulations, focusing on certain categories of Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) holders.

According to an announcement on the Immigration New Zealand website, the new regulations stated that individuals holding AEWVs in jobs classified at levels 4 and 5 by the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), and without a pathway to residency, can no longer sponsor work, visitor, or student visa applications for their partners and dependent children.

It also recently included a major policy change which allows Science, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) school teachers to qualify for the Straight to Residence pathway under the Green List of in-demand occupations.


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