Trends Are Hard To Ignore – Article By Arunima Dhingra

Trends Are Hard To Ignore – Article By Arunima Dhingra – For those of you who have been on this journey with me at NZAMI will be aware of my passion for investigating patterns in Immigration New Zealand’s decision-making, particularly WD1 visas and the trend it represents for Indian nationalities contrasted with the rest of the world.

I had penned a segment in the 26 May 2017 NZAMI newsletter regarding the challenges we as practitioners’ face in this category. So here I am again, a year later highlighting a nil change in the ambiguity presented by this particular type of visa. After multiple requests made to INZ under Official Information Act 1982, I now hold 2 years of data. I had recently had the opportunity to co-present at NZAMI along with INZ officials on WD1 covering a 10-month period (April 2017 to Feb 2018). Since then, there has been a lot of interest and speculation in this from different media channels. This article aims to provide food for thought at a time when the air in this industry is shrouded by the hope and anxiety of new policy announcements on the horizon.

Here is a recap of the undeniable trends that emerge from the latest stats:

  • There is an increase in the decline rate for WD1 visas over the past few years
  • Indian nationality accounted for one of the highest decline % for WD1: just over 1 in every 7 Indian work visa applications were declined.
  • In contrast, for China which is the largest source market of international students, only 1 in every 25 applications were declined.
  • India is the largest portion for WD1 visas for INZ (6940 applications last year), accounts for 76% of total declines assessed by INZ across all nationalities. In contrast, total Chinese WD1 applications submitted to INZ were only 1736.

We can safely infer from the below that most Indian international students will go on to apply for WD1 visas during their time in New Zealand. But what is it? What is it that is causing such a high decline amongst these international students who spend a fortune to study here first and strive to gain work experience. The Hon. Minister has called it “the backdoor to residence” [1]. But is it though?

As we say “numbers is an exact science”, the trends are hard to ignore.

Immigration New Zealand says there is no bias in the decision making. The industry believes that Indian nationals face hard scrutiny and a much stricter application of instructions, but that’s not to say that other nationalities will be approved without adherence to policy instructions. Indian applications form the largest proportion of WD1 visas, and hence also form the largest proportion of WD1 declines. Is that all there is to the story of a high decline rate – or is there more?

Is it that a large number of Indian international students are coming here for courses that have little to no value in the labour market?

Would these students still have invested all their money and resources into such courses had they known there is no hope after they graduate? Would anyone willingly make an investment with no return? Or is it that they didn’t know and were played at the hands of offshore agents receiving a fat commission cheque?

There is no denying that the offshore student agency network is unregulated [2]. All these phenomena have a lag effect and we see that lag taking hold with the WD1 declines in recent years. A stigma that’s attached to Indian temporary applications which the applicants cannot seem to shake off.

As the consultation process for new policy changes commences, there is hope. Hope for the “investment makers” – the international students. That the policy will give them ability to work if they choose the “right” course and that this “right” course will be defined from the outset.

When the consultation process is finished, the government must take into account these glaring trends and incorporate it in the execution of the new policy. How it will do that – is a question that remains to be answered.

Arunima Dhingra 
NZAMI Director


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