Changes to immigration settings for international students will be the first immigration moves this Government makes.
The changes aim to attract international students studying at higher levels and those taking "high quality" courses in an area of skill shortage below degree level.
The changes make it more difficult for students studying at lower levels to stay on and work in New Zealand and will entirely scrap post-study work visas.
Removing the visas will "help reduce the risk of migrant exploitation and better protect New Zealand's international reputation," Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said on Wednesday.
According to estimates from the Ministry of Business, Immigration and Employment (MBIE), the number of first-time student visas could drop by between 1200 and 6000 in 2019.
"We expect that any impact on onshore student volumes or sector value should be relatively short lived as the sector adapts to these changes to immigration settings," Immigration NZ said.
One of the issues that divided parties during the campaign was immigration. Labour, NZ First and Greens all had policies that would decrease immigration to New Zealand. National and ACT said they would maintain current levels.
In the lead-up to the election campaign, then-Labour leader Andrew Little said Labour would reduce immigration levels by the tens of thousands.
The changes announced today are a softened version of those signalled and opened for consultation in June.
The original proposal would have provided a one year post-study visa after non-degree level 7 or below qualifications.
Following consultation, the students studying toward registration with a professional or trade body will be entitled to two years, as will some of those studying outside Auckland if study is completed by 2022.
Another change to the signalled announcement provides a breather for the regions.
"We understand that regional providers need time to transition. To support that transition, students who study sub-degree courses outside Auckland will be entitled to a two-year open work visa if they complete their qualification by December 2021," Mr Lees-Galloway said.
National's calling the softening a "major backdown".
"We told Labour before the election that its policy to slash the number of international students would gut the international education sector and grind our economy to a halt," immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said.
"Thanks to the chorus of voices that joined National in warning the Government that this proposal could result in 50 percent fewer student enrolments next year at a cost of almost $500 million in export earnings per year, the Government has finally backed down.
The changes take effect from November 2018.
Changes to post-study work rights include:
- Removing the employer-assisted post-study work visas at all levels
- A one-year post-study open work visa for students studying Level 4 to 6 and non-degree Level 7 qualifications, with an additional year for Graduate Diploma graduates who are working towards registration with a professional or trade body
- A two-year post-study open work visa for students studying Level 4 to 6 and non-degree Level 7 qualifications outside Auckland provided study is completed by December 2021.
- Entitlement for post-study work rights then reverts to a one-year post-study open work visa for students studying Level 4 to 6 and non-degree Level 7 qualifications with an additional year for Graduate Diploma graduates who are working towards registration with a professional or trade body
- Providing a three-year post-study open work visa for degree Level 7 or above qualifications; and
- Requiring international students studying Level 8 qualifications to be in an area specified on the Long Term Skills Shortage list in order for their partner to be eligible for an open work visa, and in turn for the partners' dependent children to be eligible for fee-free domestic schooling.