Immigration rules ease for overseas students

The government is introducing a number of changes to the immigration rules concerning health certificates that are likely to make it easier for international students to have their applications processed.

The changes, due to become effective in July, would mean international fee-paying students need not provide full medical certificates, unless there are reasons determined by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) either in individual cases concerned or as ‘an emerging new health risk factor.’

But they would be required to subscribe to an insurance policy acceptable to INZ.

The logic behind relaxing the health requirement is the theory that students are generally young and because they are ineligible for publicly funded health care, the risk of them imposing health costs on New Zealand is low.

But the factor that is more significant is the need to tap into the enormous potential that export education offers. The government sees insurance policies covering international students as an effective way of mitigating costs on the public health system.

It is understood that INZ officials are currently discussing the issue with Education ministry, Education New Zealand and others on the ways and means of making this requirement as smooth and workable as possible.

“Immigration health screening for international fee paying students will be reduced to screening for tuberculosis (TB) only, unless there other health risk factors. Visa applicants who have spent six consecutive months in a high risk TB country since their previous visa application will be re-screened for TB,” a notification said.

Immigration Minister Nathan Guy would not provide details, stating that the changes were still being developed but said they would benefit overseas students applying for student visas.

“More information will be made available closer to the implementation of these changes,” he said in a statement issued on April 2, 2012.

Expert endorsement

The changes have pleased Auckland based McClymont & Associates Principal (Barrister and Solicitor) Alastair McClymont, one of the senior most advisors in the business.

“The changes are sensible and nothing appears contravercial so far,” he said.

Mr McClymont said that the proposed changes to the Family cateogry would be of interest to the Sub-Continent communities.

“I would be inclined to agree with the government on that as well,” he said.

The changes are apparently aimed at making New Zealand more attractive for international fee-paying students.

Mr Guy said that New Zealand was competing with other developed countries for the same pool of potential migrants, students and visitors.

“Our economic future depends in part on the continued success of our education, tourism and other export sectors. These changes are designed to make it easier for low-risk, high-value migrants to come to New Zealand.

“Visa applications lodged up until the changes are made will be subject to the current immigration instructions,” Mr Guy said.

Mitigating risks

According to official sources, changes are also on the anvil for immigration health screening for partners and dependent children of New Zealand citizens and residents but details are not yet available.

It is however understood these requirements would be simplified and limited to conditions that may be considered highly risky. Immigration New Zealand will follow a similar procedure for successful asylum claimants.

Another change indicated was that applicants for various types of visas would be allowed to use health certificates submitted earlier, provided they are no more than three years old.

This facility would be subject to any existing health risk factors that may be identified at a later stage.

“This is a major change and a positive move that will benefit students and the education sector. To mitigate any impact on health services, INZ will require the student to hold appropriate medical insurance. This will be a visa condition,” officials said.

The notification said that health tests will be updated to ensure that the latest developments in high-cost health conditions are taken into account.

Officials said that all other temporary entry visa applicants including domestic students (those pursuing doctorate degrees), visitors, workers, limited visa and resident visa applicants, will be able to re-use medical certificates which have been submitted within 36 months of their latest application.

“This is a change from the current validity period of 24 months for temporary entry visa applicants and three months for resident visa applicants,” they said.

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