Student Visas revisited

By Eric Crampton 05/02/2015

While it is true that students can get a 12-month open work visas and that students with job offers can get longer-term visas, it’s also true that employers will be reluctant to offer jobs to international students soon to graduate where it then means they have immigration hassles afterwards: they can’t tell that the student on an open work visa will get the longer term visa, and they risk losing the new employee if the immigration process falls over. Permanent residence by default, barring failure of a criminal background check, would get rid of this problem. Further, because potential students would have certainty that they would be able to stay here on graduation, they would rank New Zealand schools a few places higher in their international applications.

The Timaru Herald’s revisited that call. I got an email from them the other day asking if I still liked that idea; they’ve been finding employers having big problems in getting skilled staff who like the idea of granting permanent residence to new graduates. They reported on it today.

A South Canterbury employer says an economist’s proposal to grant international students permanent residency on graduation could ease skill shortages.
Economist Dr Eric Crampton says the Government should automatically grant permanent resident status to foreign students who graduate with Bachelor’s degrees from major New Zealand universities.
Crampton, the New Zealand Initiative think-tank’s head of research, said the scheme could “do double duty in reducing skills shortages and in supporting the tertiary sector” by encouraging international students, who pay relatively high fees compared with domestic students, to study in New Zealand.
Polarcold Stores chief executive Kevin Cahill said yesterday the proposal “makes a lot of sense”.

They note that Jo Goodhew has referred the idea over to Immigration  Minister Woodhouse’s office, who punted to MBIE. I hope that MBIE puts some weight on that:

  • Students on the 12-month open work visa still have huge problems in securing work because employers just cannot tell whether the student will be able to stay on. One of my former students at Canterbury was in on a student visa. If there were any student I’d ever taught on whom I’d place a bet on “will be incredibly successful in business”, it was him. Ridiculously good. And while on a student visa, his English was superb – better than most Kiwi students. And he still butted up against employer reluctance to take on that work visa risk. This is a real and significant barrier to even really really great students who’d add just a ton of value to firms. 
  • Students graduating and wishing to be entrepreneurs cannot do it under visa requirements demanding that they have employment;
  • The policy would bring in more international students, helping to cross-subsidise domestic students.
I put strong odds on the Immigration bureaucracy’s telling the Minister, “Oh, it’s more complicated than you think, we’d be outsourcing immigration policy to the Universities, we’d need to be policing the Universities to make sure their processes are robust, and the students can already get that open work visa so there is no problem to be solved.” All of that’s avoidable: TEC knows how to police this stuff subsequent to the CPIT Cool-IT rort. And the open work visa really doesn’t seem to be enough.
I hope MBIE runs with this one. It could do a lot of good.

Update: In answer to one obvious question, the way I’d run this would be to have Universities get accreditation for particular degree programmes under the scheme. They’d have to keep track of employment stats on their graduates who gained residence through the programme and publish them for applying students. And should too many students graduating from particular programmes wind up on benefit, that programme would lose accreditation.

0 Responses to “Student Visas revisited”

  • Hi Eric
    To quite some extent the Immigration does outsource immigration policy to universities through the “Student Online Partner” accreditation. When I managed the International Student Support program at UC (over a decade ago now) we had anecdotal feedback from students (and permanent residents) about employer attitudes and difficulties in getting work. The “90 day rule” may have worked in favour of these people where they were more likely to be “given a go.” Do you have any data before & after the 90 day rule on the number of PRs/recent intl student grads who have got work?
    wrt to your suggestion, Australia may have something to say about that as NZ PR has been a ticket to the lucky country for many.

  • “grant permanent resident status to foreign students who graduate with Bachelor’s degrees from major New Zealand universities.”

    Would you care to clarify why one would limit this to the “major universities” or for that matter why polytechnics wouldn’t be included?

    Also, surely there are some degrees where NZ produces enough graduates such that this would great additional competition for jobs?

  • John: I love the idea of checking the effects of the 90-day rule on international students. I wonder who would have the data to allow somebody to check it. If the data exists, I’d be pitching it as a potential honours project back at Canterbury.

    Michael: No particular reason to limit to the unis other than political feasibility. I think the whole Cool-IT thing at CPIT has left a sour taste for a lot of folks. But there’s no other particular reason that degree programmes feeding into things on the skill shortages list shouldn’t be eligible.

  • Eric,

    What does “political feasibility” mean?

    Also, I don’t think it is fair to drag up an issue one polytechnic had over a decade ago, when it is also possible to point to more recent occurrences in the university sector that also leave a “sour taste” for example the way several universities manipulated the PBRF reporting of the number of research active staff.
    With regards to skill shortages, reports shows that the most demand is for engineering programmes taught in the polytechnic sector – i.e. the national diploma and bachelor or engineering technology

    • Political feasibility means I don’t think that schemes allowing polytechs to be gatekeeper over new permanent residents would be likely to get much support in Parliament. Maybe there’d be a way around it where institutions have to opt particular programmes in subject to reporting standards.

  • Eric,
    Sorry still not following your reasoning. Was it your contention that universities would be gatekeepers over permanent residents? If so, then I still can’t see why you are drawing a distinction between universities and polytechnics.
    At polytechnics there are already a number of programmes where international students are quite successful in completing these programmes and then finding work in New Zealand, engineering, computer aided design and business for example.
    Graduate diplomas, where international students who already have a degree from overseas do an additional year of training, are also one way international students already enter the New Zealand workforce in areas where they are needed.

    • I’m suggesting that even getting Universities permission to act in that role would be difficult, and that extending it to polytechs where, rightly or wrongly, the memory of CoolIT still lingers, would be much harder.

      I expect this all works only where particular degrees are certified for immigration purposes, where the schools commit to outcome-tracking and reporting, and where degrees get disaccredited if their grads have poor employment outcomes. I also expect that there are plenty of polytech degrees that would have better outcomes on this kind of measure than universities; I just don’t think we can get there from here as a first step.