Study Abroad: New Zealand rejects 40% of Indian student visas, leaves universities jittery

While New Zealand rejected 2,010 student visa applications from India, only 206 from that of China were rejected within January-April 2024

New Zealand rejected nearly half of the visa applications in the first quarter of 2024 (Image : Wikimedia Commons)New Zealand rejected nearly half of the visa applications in the first quarter of 2024 (Image : Wikimedia Commons)

Pritha Roy Choudhury | June 26, 2024 | 01:44 PM IST

NEW DELHI: In an upset for thousands, the visa rejection rate for prospective Indian students in New Zealand has surged to an all-time high, according to a report by the country's public broadcaster. While 28% of study visas from India were rejected in 2022, the figure increased to a whopping 40% in 2023.

New Zealand rejected nearly half of the visa applications in the first quarter of 2024, the report added.

Since February this year, the New Zealand Education Representatives in India (NZERI) – a group of study abroad consultants – have been writing to the New Zealand government to seek reasons for such an increase in rejections. "But we only receive responses asking for more time. They have not provided clear answers, suggesting they are unwilling or unable to address the issue transparently," said Munish Sekhri, immigration general secretary of NZERI and a licensed study New Zealand advisor.

According to a report by Radio New Zealand (RNZ), immigration New Zealand processed 5,018 study visa applications from Indian students between January and April 2024, of which 2,010 were rejected. On the other hand, the agency processed 8,012 study visa applications from China with only 206 rejections.

Also read Study Abroad: IRCC verification flags 1,813 ‘potentially fraudulent’ acceptance letters

New Zealand Visa: Reason for rejection

"At the start of semester one this year, nearly 10% of visas to study at New Zealand universities were not yet allocated to an Immigration NZ official for processing, and another 2% were still being processed," Chris Whelan, chief executive of Universities New Zealand, told RNZ. He said these delays are unfair to the students and harmful to New Zealand’s reputation.

“We need to do better for these students if we want this country to enjoy the benefits of international education,” he said, as reported by RNZ.

Universities New Zealand, representing eight tertiary institutions in New Zealand, has already apprised the issue with the New Zealand government."Immigration New Zealand is declining visas based on arbitrary decisions. There has been no change in policy; the immigration rules and act remain the same. Yet, internally, they seem to have decided to decline Indian student visas," Sekhri said.

Also read Australia cracks down on visa hopping by international students

NZERI officials say there is no clear written communication about the rationale behind the rejections. Immigration New Zealand claims to have increased their risk assessment criteria but is not transparent about its goals. Visas are being declined without valid reasons, often citing issues like bona fides or by using technical jargons.

New Zealand is a favourite destination for Indian students seeking to study abroad due to its affordability. The New Zealand dollar is relatively cheaper compared to currencies like the US dollar, pound sterling, and euro, making it a cost-effective option for Indians pursuing education in New Zealand. Popular courses for Indian students in New Zealand include MBA, artificial intelligence, engineering, and hotel management, among others.

Immigration officials ‘not trained’

Amarpreet Singh, director of India operations of Kiwiana Immigration and Education, stated that the officials handling the applications for studying in New Zealand are not adequately trained.

"We've seen cases where an application with only three months of financial history and no clear source was approved. In contrast, another application with two years of financial history was declined. This inconsistency highlights the officers' lack of training and adherence to their guidelines," said Amarpreet.

He mentioned instances where an application was initially rejected but accepted upon reapplication with the same documents. "It's causing a lot of confusion and frustration. Students who meet all the requirements are getting declined. Good-quality applications are being rejected without proper verification”.

New Zealand post-study visa

Saksham Ganotra, currently in his first year at Otago Polytechnic Auckland International Campus, was lucky enough to get his visa within 15 working days. “When I came here, it was difficult to manage studies and hunt for the right accommodation but things were fine once I settled,” he said.

Ganotra is studying bachelor's in applied management, which is a three-year programme and will be getting a three-year post-study work visa.

The post-study visa policy depends on the course. Green-listed courses can lead to a three-year work visa, while others might offer one year or none. The New Zealand government had created the Green List in response to COVID-19 restrictions that slowed immigration and increased demand for staff.

This list includes highly skilled occupations urgently needing overseas workers, as local talent cannot fill these roles. "This inconsistency of immigration officials adds to the confusion. Students usually prefer to stay back for a couple of years to gain work experience and enhance their skills. This pathway benefits both the students and the New Zealand economy," added Sekhri.

New Zealand promotes itself as a place where students can study, work, and settle. This aligns with the government's goal of attracting skilled immigrants to boost the economy. However, the current visa rejections contradict this policy, say the study New Zealand advisors and consultants.

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