Immigration officials clarify student visa issue

Arunima Dingra 

I have addressed earlier the matter of Immigration New Zealand (INZ) declining second- year student visa applications on the grounds of allegedly misappropriated maintenance funds during the term of their previous student visas.

Officers were interpreting the requirement of $15000 per year or $1250 per month as meaning that a student visa holder must maintain a minimum balance of $1250 per month in their accounts at all times, and that the funds should be onshore. It was also mentioned that the funds shown with their offshore application, must be transferred to New Zealand once they are onshore.

Two key points

We came across a number of student visa applications that were declined on such grounds, and I raised this matter with higher officials after receiving ambiguous responses initially. We have since received some important clarification from senior management on this issue, which I believe to be nothing less than ground breaking.

I have since received feedback from the Operations Manager at the Palmerston North branch. This has been extremely informative and helpful in providing clarity on the issue and providing a fair outcome to our clients. Two key points were communicated, in contradiction to what was previously being implemented: (a) There is no specific requirement that states that a student must maintain a minimum balance of $1250 in their account at all times while in New Zealand (b) Instructions do not state that a student must transfer all, or even some of the funds evidenced in original offshore student visa application to New Zealand. They must only have the means to access those funds.

Potential improvement

This very important statement sheds some much-needed light on a prominent grey area highlighted recently in student visa instructions.

I believe this will lead to an improvement in the interpretation of immigration instructions and therefore improve the quality of service provided by the Palmerston North branch.

Immigration is a very dynamic industry and the interpretation of immigration instructions should also be reviewed and adapted to keep up with the everchanging demands of the industry.

I am of the opinion that Immigration New Zealand has a very important and difficult task on their hands especially in the student sector where so much fraud has come to light. However, it is of utmost importance that the officers maintain a fair and genuine stance on their interpretation of instructions so it does not catch innocent and genuine students off guard and severely disadvantage them.

There is always room for improvement and growth, and I am pleased that student visa application processing has been given a closer look in this instance.

Students should not have to suffer declined applications because they have been caught out by a requirement that is not actually explicitly stated, and is in fact a result of incorrect interpretation.

Industry thinking

I am keen to know what other practitioners think about the way student visa applications are processed onshore and offshore, and whether the way each branch handles them should be more streamlined so that students are made aware of what is required of them in the future, at the outset before they come onshore.

Arunima Dhingra is Director and a Fully Licensed Immigration Advisor at Aims Global Education and Immigration Services. The above article appeared in ‘Aims Global Newsletter’ dated May 19, 2017. Aims Global Education and Immigration Services is the joint sponsor with ‘The Fund Master,’ of the ‘Best Accountant of the Year’ Category of the Tenth Annual Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards. The Company shifted its office to a more spacious premises at 107C Great South Road, Epsom, Auckland on May 29, 2017.

Additional Reading: ‘NZAMI opposes Essential Skills Visa changes,’ and ‘Integration must follow migration for meaningful diversity’ under Viewlink.

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