International students, education providers and their representatives have been feeling uneasy about the delay in deciding on student visa applications lodged with Immigration New Zealand (INZ). This is especially concerning as Education New Zealand (ENZ) and its promoters need all the resources and assistance they can get to compete in the international education market.
Although INZ is soon likely to come out with a media statement that the large volume of applications was unprecedented, it does not change the fact that these abnormal delays are unfair to full-fee-paying students.
As cliche as it may sound, the reason behind INZ’s slow processing of student visa applications is likely due to an increase in application volumes over recent months. However, why they did not anticipate it and deploy enough resources is a different story altogether.
There are several other factors too that can affect how long it takes for a student visa application to be processed. These include staffing levels and availability, the level of expertise required to assess each application, the redeployment of resources, and the complexity of individual cases. Additionally, there is evidence that INZ’s new online system has caused delays due to issues with data entry accuracy or technical difficulties with uploading supporting documents.
In addition to these factors, there may also be disagreements between ENZ and INZ over certain applications or applying and interpreting course eligibility criteria. This can lead to subsequent delays in decision-making, which will ultimately hurt ENZ’s reputation as an international education brand if it continues unchecked.
These delays have affected many full-fee-paying international students stuck in limbo while waiting for visa decisions that INZ should already have made. They can only begin studying or make travel arrangements once they receive the results of their application. Not only does this delay put them at a disadvantage academically, but it also impacts them financially. Furthermore, some students may be forced to withdraw from courses some universities may no longer accept late enrolments due to strict deadlines or overcrowding.
Fortunately, there are some steps that INZ can still take to help alleviate the problem and ensure that international students receive timely decisions regarding their visa applications:
The delays in student visa approvals are causing considerable concern among those involved in international education. While it is understandable that INZ may be experiencing delays due to increased application volumes, it should not have come as a surprise.
If handling large volumes has become an issue, then the government should order an enquiry to find out why INZ is going wrong about its anticipated visa lodgements numbers so regularly.
The government must alleviate these issues and ensure that international students receive timely decisions from INZ on their visa applications. Close coordination between ENZ, INZ and other relevant government departments will allow a more efficient system to be implemented so that all stakeholders involved benefit from faster processing times of student visa applications and all international students have access to quality education without unnecessary delays or obstacles along the way.
Vandana Rai is a Senior Licensed Immigration Adviser and has built a reputation around her rare set of skills, which could be considered ideal for her legal profession.