Queenstown visa game-changer

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A Queenstown English language school veteran says new rules allowing international students to work while they study are a game-changer.

Language Schools New Zealand director Guy Hughes says foreign students have been put off coming to NZ to learn English because they can’t work part-time to cover their costs.

The Government’s now announced that foreign students enrolled in an English language course for at least 14 weeks, with a Category 1-rated provider, can work up to 20 hours a week.

The new ‘work rights’ – effective January 13 – will bring NZ into line with most other countries including, crucially, Australia. 

Hughes says NZ language schools have lost a lot of business to Australia because of the no-work policy – “it’s been the big killer for us”. 

“I’d just given up on marketing to Brazil, for example, because it wasn’t worth it – now I’m off to Brazil and Colombia for the first two weeks of December.

“Finally, after a decade [of lobbying], this Government has seen the value, the economic opportunity of getting all these students in.

“Most of them won’t choose to work part-time but it’s part of their decision-making process – they will look at NZ as an equal option to Australia, Canada, UK, etc, so it’s the biggest news we could have hoped for.”

Hughes says Governments have been wary of how NZers will react to giving jobs to foreigners.

“But this Government has done the research showing that every three students who come into the country create a job in the wider community and every 10 students creates a job for another teacher at a language school.”

Government Minister Steven Joyce, when announcing the policy this month, said: “Any additional work taken up by the students is more than offset by the growth in the international education industry and the jobs it provides.” 

Hughes, who at any time has between 40 and 80 language students, believes his numbers could increase by up to 50 per cent by mid-2014.

Blaze Barham, co-owner and principal of Queenstown’s Southern Lakes English College, is also very pleased with the new work-while-you-study initiative.

“It puts us on an even keel a little bit with Australia now, which is good. Not having this has meant that NZ has slipped behind the rest of the world.”