New Post-Study work visa policy announced

The new policy around Post-Study work rights affects international students who graduate in New Zealand after 26 November 2018. But it also has an impact on current students that have just graduated.  Lastly, if also affects current holders of postgraduate work visas.

An international student who graduates in New Zealand has the option to stay in New Zealand to gain work experience in the area they studied. Currently, there are two different visas available to graduates: a 12-month open work visa and a 24-month employer-assisted work visa.

In the new policy only the open work visa exists. The duration of the open work visa is 1, 2 or 3 years. The length of the open work visa depends on the level of your course and where you have studied.

To be eligible for a postgraduate work visa you must complete at least an NZQF level 4 qualification that was at least 30 weeks (one academic year) in length.

Open work visa duration Graduated from
1 year
  • All level 4 to 7 non-degree qualifications – if you study in Auckland
2 years
  • All level 4 to 7 non-degree qualifications – if you study outside Auckland*
  • Level 7 Graduate Diploma if you are working towards professional registration
3 years
  • Level 7 Bachelor Degree or higher

* excluding distance learning

Existing student visa holders

You are an existing student visa holder if you held a student visa on 8 August 2018. You are also an existing student if Immigration accepted your student visa application for processing on or before 8 August 2018.

An existing student that graduates after 26 November 2018 is eligible for a 3-year postgraduate open work visa.

You get a postgraduate visa under the current policy if you graduate before 26 November and you receive a postgraduate work visa before this date as well. This means either a 1-year open work visa or a 2-year employer-assisted work visa. You can ask to have the employer and position removed from your Employer-Assisted visa after 26 November.

You are only eligible for a post-study work visa if you studied at least a level 4 qualification with a duration of 1 academic year (30 weeks).

Existing postgraduate work visa holders

If you currently hold a 1-year open work visa, you may apply for a further 2-year open work visa. Or, if your current open work visa expires before 26 November, you need to apply for a postgraduate Employer-Assisted visa. You may ask to get the position and employer removed from your visa after 26 November.

Partners of student visa holders

Currently, a partner is eligible for an open work visa if their partner studies towards

  • a Bachelor Degree that is on the Long Term Skill Shortage List, or
  • a level 8 or higher qualification.

Under the new policy, nothing changes for partners of Bachelor Degree students. However, for partners of students of level 8 and above courses things change. They can only apply for an open work visa if the qualification of their partner is on the Long Term Skills Shortage List. This aligns the policy with the policy for Bachelor Degrees. Consequently, fewer partners can apply for an open work visa while their partner is studying. An additional income during the period of study is very beneficial. Immigration New Zealand hopes that, as a result,  more people will choose to study a subject that is on the Long Term Skill Shortage List.