'They will not gain residence' - Immigration Minister on foreign students

The Immigration Minister is not concerned that many students coming to New Zealand to study are seeing it as a pathway to getting residency.  

Michael Woodhouse says while some students may think they will get NZ residence, in reality, only around 19 per cent will have it granted Source: Q+A

Net migration has continued to set new records this year, although economists believe it may be close to a peak.

Even so, there's some debate about the impact of immigration, and whether we are seeing the benefits politicians promise. 

There's been concern from Labour, economists, business leaders and even Treasury and the Reserve Bank. 

"It's subject to review, I don't think it will change materially, and the reasons for that are to do with who is coming and gaining residence," Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse told Q+A.

TVNZ's political editor Corin Dann asked Mr Woodhouse if he was concerned about expectations by students that they could gain residency after they finish study. 

"There are some expectations from students that they will be able to stay and gain residence. Overwhelmingly though it's important to keep in mind that they will not gain residence," he said.

"About 19 per cent of the students who graduate from our universities, Polytechs and PTEs have gone on to gain residence, and they're part of that planning range."

A New Zealand People's Party is forming based around Asian and Indian migrants, who feel the government is exploiting the student visa category because migrant students were being sold visas on the basis they were more likely to get residency.

Mr Woodhouse rejects the claim and is concerned that education agencies in India are selling students "a pathway to residence that simply doesn't exist for many of them."

"This is a challenge that not only New Zealand faces but many other countries that also have international education from India," said Mr Woodhouse.

Often these students come to New Zealand to study and work about 20 hour weeks in low-paid, low-skill jobs, and can face suppression of wages. 

"What is occurring in some places is there are forms of exploitation that are going on that Immigration New Zealand and the labour inspectorate are working very hard to flush out," said Mr Woodhouse.

The Reserve Bank and Treasury have questioned whether or not immigration is causing suppression of wages, and now New Zealand students could have to compete with foreign students for jobs where employers could lower the pay. 

Mr Woodhouse said he does not think this is the case, but said "it's certainly something we need to be mindful of and we're keeping a very close eye on it."

Although there are 15,000 unemployed labourers in New Zealand and 6500 labourers have been given work visas Mr Woodhouse says it has been important to make sure skills shortage lists are targeted regionally and make sure people with the skills needed are being given visas. 

"It's important to keep in mind that we do have a New Zealanders first policy," said Mr Woodhouse.

He says there is evidence from last month's BERL report showing "there is is a very strong positive contribution being made by migrants, both temporary and permanent."