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New Zealand: visa applications 25% off pre-Covid figures as recovery continues

The number study visas Immigration New Zealand approved in the year to June 2023 reached 62,011, figures from the government agency have shown.

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The 2015/16 saw the most Indian applications rejected when 13,057 of the total 34,928 applications were denied

The figures, released on June 3, are down from the 83,733 approved in the 2019/20 year, but they show recovery from the big drop during the Covid-19 pandemic when the country’s borders were closed.

The 2022/23 figures show an uptick in applications from India that were declined. In total, 7,263 study visa applications were granted, compared with the 2,360 from India that were rejected.

China saw 18,369 student visas granted in 2022/23, maintaining it as the biggest cohort of international students. The country saw, compared with India, 642 study visa applications be declined.

In total, authorities turned down 6,483 study visa applications meaning that India represented more than a third of rejections.

Some 13 countries saw more than 1,000 student visa applications, with 2,928 coming from the Philippines, 2,812 from South Africa, 2,409 from the US and 2,313 from South Korea.

Fiji (2,240), Japan (2,153), Thailand (1,985), Vietnam (1,858), Germany (1,385), Sri Lanka (1,675) and Brazil (1,004) all had more than 1,000 applications approved. These figures represent how many visas were granted. They do not tell exactly how many students arrived in the country.

The agency also released data on first-time students showing that between July 1 2022 and May 31 of this year, 41,593 first-time student visas had been approved. This is an increase of 34,370 on 2021/22 figures.

Of the 41,593 first-time students receiving study visas, 13,960 were from non-top 10 sending countries. China represented the most with 8,512 applications, followed by India with 5,826 and the Philippines with 2,564.

In a statement to The PIE, Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao CEO, Grant McPherson, noted that India is “clearly a market of significant long-term importance, with forecast economic growth of 6-7% every year for the next three to five years”.

The country’s national education strategy “makes clear” it needs educated, skilled and talented people to realise its economic ambitions, he continued.

“Regarding visa applications, the criteria is set out and published by Immigration New Zealand. Students considering coming to New Zealand to study and their agents should look at them closely before they apply. Experienced agents have a detailed understanding of these criteria,” he said.

The rejection rates among Indian applicants have returned to pre-Covid figures, but have not reached the peak in the mid-2010s. In 2014/15, some 11,000 study visa applications from India were rejected compared with the almost 21,000 that were approved.

One year previous in 2013/14, 2,662 had been rejected compared with the 14,917 approved.

The 2015/16 saw the most Indian applications rejected when 13,057 of the total 34,928 applications were denied.

The PIE approached Immigration New Zealand to ask why rejection rates for Indian applicants were so much higher than other countries but had not received a response ahead of publication.

“Applications from our key markets are being approved at good rates and in good time”

Approved visas for English language studies hit 5,054 in the 2022/23 year, still down on the 2017/18 peak at 15,649.

Kim Renner, executive director at English New Zealand, noted that the visa data doesn’t capture the “full picture” for the English language sector.

Short-term students on visitor and working holiday visas “kick started” the recovery process and remain a strong contributor to overall ELT student numbers, she explained.

“English New Zealand’s internal snapshot data shows steady growth averaging about 30% every six weeks from July 2022 and student visa applications have been steady since August 2022 when processing resumed. Applications from our key markets are being approved at good rates and in good time,” she told The PIE.

The country has sought to diversify its international student cohort, with “quality” being key in its international education strategy.

Writing on June 15, McPherson, who has just spent two weeks in North America following a delegation he led to India in May, commented on the “intense” competition New Zealand faces as its international education sector continues to rebuild and reestablish its partnerships and relationships.

“We must continue all our efforts to ensure people know we are open, and we are welcoming of students into New Zealand,” he said.

Recent student visa application figures are a “good start considering our borders have not been open for a year”.

“Rebuilding is not an easy task. I don’t think any of us thought it was going to be. There are plenty of articles and news stories identifying challenges being faced by other countries,” he said.

“New Zealand is in an excellent position to attract great students who receive a leading education and have a life changing experience.”

McPherson, in his statement to The PIE, noted that ENZ announced a $400,000 investment into internationalisation and student mobility initiatives including the relaunch of the New Zealand Excellence Awards during the delegation to India.

“The NZEA are unique scholarships designed exclusively for Indian students that are jointly funded by ENZ and all New Zealand universities. Since their launch in 2016, the scholarships have enabled more than 200 Indian students to study at one of New Zealand’s universities,” he said.

Earlier this year ENZ also led a delegation to the Middle East, with four universities visiting Oman, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, aiming to promote the country as a destination for government-sponsored scholarship students.

“Getting New Zealand onto the Saudi Arabian government’s list for scholarships will take regular and persistent engagement”

“Getting New Zealand onto the Saudi Arabian government’s list for scholarships will take regular and persistent engagement from NZ Inc partners and education institutions,” said ENZ’s regional director Americas, Middle East & Europe, Amy Rutherford.

“The approval of New Zealand education providers [on the list] would be an important signal of the high quality of New Zealand education and potentially support our involvement in other areas of government funding, such with the National Institute for Education and Professional Development, the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation, or the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Tourism.”

For the country’s ELT sector, diversity has always been a “key selling point” for English New Zealand members, with some hosting between 20-30 different nationalities within their schools currently, Renner added.

“It’s great to see more flight options available at better prices, and we are working closely with members to support them as we move out of the recovery phase and into more business-as-usual mode,” she said.


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