There are a number of options open to migrants who have completed their studies at a New Zealand university and wish to stay in the country. Amongst these are the Study to Work pathway and the Skilled Migrant Category (“SMC”).

The Study to Work pathway allows for migrants whose student visas are due to expire to transition into work on temporary work visas. The Skilled Migrant Category allows skilled migrants who meet the points threshold to apply for a residence visa (for further information see Immigrating to New Zealand – The Skilled Migrant Work Category).

Depending on the circumstances, the best option for a migrant who has finished studying and wishes to become a New Zealand resident may be to begin their journey along the Study to Work pathway and eventually aim to obtain residence under the SMC, if possible, once they have obtained work experience.

The Study to Work pathway offers two options – the Open Post-Study Work Visa (“PSWV”), for those who wish to seek employment, and the Employer Assisted Post-Study Work Visa (“EAPSWV”), for those who are offered employment relevant to their studies.

The PSWV allows a migrant to seek employment in an area related to their field of study. During that period, they may work in almost any job in New Zealand until they find the study-specific employment. This visa:

  • Must be applied for no later than three months after the applicant’s study visa expires; and
  • Gives an applicant up to 12 months to search for relevant employment.

Upon finding employment that relates to their studies, a migrant may then be able to apply for the EAPSWV. The purpose of the visa is to allow migrants to gain the requisite experience to embark on a career in their chosen profession. This visa:

  • Is based on the job offered to the migrant by a specific employer; and
  • Typically allows an applicant to work in New Zealand for up to two years, however, may be granted for three years if work experience is required as part of professional registration.

The Study to Work pathway may open the door for migrants to obtain residence based on the SMC if their work is within an occupation that Immigration New Zealand considers to have skill shortages. Under this category, an applicant needs to score 160 points to meet the threshold to have their Expression of Interest considered.

The Study to Work pathway is an excellent platform for an SMC Expression of Interest, as a migrant will typically be able to score a significant points for having secured employment, and bonus points for (amongst other things) having a New Zealand qualification, and having gained work experience in New Zealand relevant to  their field of study.

If you are coming to the end of your student visa, and would like further information or advice on New Zealand’s immigration laws, please contact Jamie Nunns, email jamie.nunns@morrisonkent.com, phone (04) 495 8912, or Shehan Gunatunga, email shehan.gunatunga@morrisonkent.com, phone (04) 495 8923.

Further information can be found here: