A few years ago, I'd suggested that we could both boost foreign student numbers and attract skilled migrants by guaranteeing permanent residence for foreign students earning a reasonable degree at one of our main universities.
While it is true that students can get a 12-month open work visas and that students with job offers can get longer-term visas, it's also true that employers will be reluctant to offer jobs to international students soon to graduate where it then means they have immigration hassles afterwards: they can't tell that the student on an open work visa will get the longer term visa, and they risk losing the new employee if the immigration process falls over. Permanent residence by default, barring failure of a criminal background check, would get rid of this problem. Further, because potential students would have certainty that they would be able to stay here on graduation, they would rank New Zealand schools a few places higher in their international applications.
The Timaru Herald's revisited that call. I got an email from them the other day asking if I still liked that idea; they've been finding employers having big problems in getting skilled staff who like the idea of granting permanent residence to new graduates. They reported on it today.
A South Canterbury employer says an economist's proposal to grant international students permanent residency on graduation could ease skill shortages.They note that Jo Goodhew has referred the idea over to Immigration Minister Woodhouse's office, who punted to MBIE. I hope that MBIE puts some weight on that:
Economist Dr Eric Crampton says the Government should automatically grant permanent resident status to foreign students who graduate with Bachelor's degrees from major New Zealand universities.
Crampton, the New Zealand Initiative think-tank's head of research, said the scheme could "do double duty in reducing skills shortages and in supporting the tertiary sector" by encouraging international students, who pay relatively high fees compared with domestic students, to study in New Zealand.
Polarcold Stores chief executive Kevin Cahill said yesterday the proposal "makes a lot of sense".
- Students on the 12-month open work visa still have huge problems in securing work because employers just cannot tell whether the student will be able to stay on. One of my former students at Canterbury was in on a student visa. If there were any student I'd ever taught on whom I'd place a bet on "will be incredibly successful in business", it was him. Ridiculously good. And while on a student visa, his English was superb - better than most Kiwi students. And he still butted up against employer reluctance to take on that work visa risk. This is a real and significant barrier to even really really great students who'd add just a ton of value to firms.
- Students graduating and wishing to be entrepreneurs cannot do it under visa requirements demanding that they have employment;
- The policy would bring in more international students, helping to cross-subsidise domestic students.
I put strong odds on the Immigration bureaucracy's telling the Minister, "Oh, it's more complicated than you think, we'd be outsourcing immigration policy to the Universities, we'd need to be policing the Universities to make sure their processes are robust, and the students can already get that open work visa so there is no problem to be solved." All of that's avoidable: TEC knows how to police this stuff subsequent to the CPIT Cool-IT rort. And the open work visa really doesn't seem to be enough.
I hope MBIE runs with this one. It could do a lot of good.