On Friday, the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations sent an open letter to the Minister for Immigration, Kris Faafoi, calling on him to expand the eligibility of the One-off Residency visa to all visa holders – including those on student and partner visas. He has not listened, or even responded.
This comes after the Minister announced a new policy that provides up to 165,000 eligible migrants the opportunity to apply for a fast-tracked visa through a streamlined process. The problem for many is what lies within the eligibility criteria.
While most visa holders are eligible to apply, such as those on Essential Skills, Work to Residence and Post-Study work visas, many on student or partner visas are ineligible.
Andrew Lessells, the NZUSA National President says that “while this move will enable a variety of migrants a pathway to residency, we have thousands of international learners who changed their visa status due to COVID-19, in the hopes of gaining more skills to earn points toward the Skilled Migrant Residency Category (SMC)”.
“The recent announcement from the Minister is unfair and exclusionary – piling on even more hardship that in times of COVID-19 our learners do not need. The mental health of international learners is precarious enough, this decision risks pushing many close to the edge.” says NZUSA Vice President Liam Davies.
The announcement has been met with harsh criticism by thousands of migrants who feel left-out, and a petition (https://www.change.org/p/new-zealand-government-expand-eligibility-for-the-2021-one-off-resident-visa) has gained more than 20,000 signatures in the first week of its release.
Rachel Swann, an advocate for expanding the One-off residency pathway who set-up the petition said that “while we acknowledge the work of the Minster in setting up the One-off residency visa, we raise the voice of the people that there is still work to be done for”.
“[Immigration New Zealand] have long advertised studying in New Zealand as a pathway to residency however, the omission of students – along with other ineligible visa holders – undermines the contribution that these people have made to New Zealand through COVID-19 and in many cases long before”.
NZUSA, our partners, and the many supporters of this petition want to work with the Minister to improve the chances of residency and have requested to meet with him in the coming days. This has also fallen on deaf ears.
The Open Letter to the Minister can be read here: https://www.students.org.nz/s/Letter-to-Minister-Faafoi-to-extend-the-One-off-Residency-Pathway-to-all-Visa-Holders.pdf