Roadblocks fuel visa rejections for NZ-bound Indian students

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Immigration New Zealand has rejected almost half of study visa applications from India in the first four months of 2024, as per a report by the country’s public broadcaster.

Though the rejection rate has decreased from 49% in the first three months of the year, it corroborates the trend of higher refusals from India in the past few years.

While 28% of all New Zealand study visa applications from India were rejected in 2022, the number increased to 40% in 2023, according to Immigration New Zealand.

Some consultants believe it is the opposite of what was promised under the new government led by Christopher Luxon, who was sworn in as PM in November 2023 and promised to put more effort into the country’s relationship with India.

“There was a lot of hope when the new NZ government was formed but the visa situation has worsened. Many students who planned for February intake, have deferred it to July due to their applications not being processed on time,” said Vijeta Kanwar, director of operations, New Zealand Gateway.

“This is even though Education New Zealand has put more focus on India in the past few years.”

Initiatives such as the New Zealand Excellence Awards scholarship, New Zealand-India Education Connect program, New Zealand Centre at IIT Delhi, and MOUs between Indian and New Zealand universities in programs such as Business, Communication, Law, Computer Science, and more, signals education’s primary role in strengthening relations between the nations.

But despite the progress in Indo-New Zealand ties, a lack of understanding regarding each other’s financial systems and documentation process has led to the current visa obstacles.

“There is a lack of cultural and technical awareness, concerning documents shared by Indian students, among NZ officials in India,” said Kanwar.

“Tax documents submitted by students, from India’s lesser-known cities, often take into account their family occupations such as Agriculture or Business, and follow a different pattern from the income tax returns filed by families engaged in service jobs.

When it comes to a student’s savings, their bank funds alone can’t determine their ability to survive in New Zealand

Vijeta Kanwar, New Zealand Gateway

“When it comes to a student’s savings, their bank funds alone can’t determine their ability to survive in New Zealand as many opt for mutual funds, and other investment options in India to save money,” added Kanwar, who previously served as immigration manager at the New Zealand ministry of business, innovation and employment office in Mumbai.

According to the RNZ report, Immigration New Zealand processed 5018 study visa applications from Indian students between January and April in 2024 – of which 2010 were rejected; on the other hand, the agency processed 8012 study visa applications from China with only 206 visa rejections, resulting in a rejection rate of just 2%.

“The issue of fraudulent documents has become a major factor in the rising visa rejection rates for applicants from India,” said Radhika Kayande, senior manager of operations and sales for New Zealand and Asia at KC Overseas Education.

“Immigration authorities have observed a growing trend of falsified papers being submitted, prompting stricter scrutiny and contributing to more frequent rejections.

The high incidence of fraudulent documents among Indian visa applicants has led to enhanced vigilance and more thorough examination processes by immigration authorities in many countries.”

The higher study visa refusal rate from India has also made New Zealand’s top universities spring into action as they engaged with the Luxon government, through Universities New Zealand, to fast-track the process.

“At the start of semester one this year, nearly 10% of visas to study at a New Zealand university were not yet allocated to an Immigration NZ official for processing, and another 2% were still being processed,” Chris Whelan, chief executive of Universities New Zealand, told RNZ.

While highlighting visa processing times being slower than usual, Riddhi Khurana, country advisor for South Asia – supporting the University of Otago – at Onestep Global, told The PIE that available information suggests a student’s inability to present the ‘cumulative study and stay fee’ for the entire duration of the course could also be a reason for rejection.

Immigration authorities have observed a growing trend of falsified papers being submitted

Radhika Kayande, KC Overseas Education

According to Khurana, there are persisting challenges in making New Zealand attractive for Indian students which also need to be addressed simultaneously.

“Many applicants struggle to provide proof of financial capability for their entire education and stay duration, which can exceed ₹1 crore (NZ$196,150) for three years, including upfront funds for immigration purposes. This substantial commitment can be challenging to demonstrate.

“[Additionally], the absence of direct flights to New Zealand makes travel cumbersome as the long journey (approximately 34 hours) with three plane transfers –typically via Singapore and Auckland – and multiple transits can make travel less convenient,” suggested Khurana.

New Zealand’s tougher scrutiny of study visa applications also comes not long after the country was grappling with a housing crisis, which has led to international students often facing stiff competition for affordable housing – especially in central city locations and near campuses, according to Saurabh Arora, founder and CEO of University Living.

“While purpose-built student accommodation options have expanded in recent years, students also explore shared accommodation arrangements and homestays to manage living costs.

“An average accommodation in Auckland may cost between NZD$380-$450 while the same in Wellington & Christchurch may cost around $319-$430 and $350-$450 respectively,” he continued.

“The demand for rental accommodation remains high due to factors such as population growth, urbanisation, and the influx of both domestic and international students.”

A survey by ENZ, featuring 1,100 New Zealanders, found that though a majority of them are supportive of international students, only 32% of them felt the country’s housing, transport, and medical services were equipped to handle them.

According to consultants, though the current visa rejections are worrisome, there are plausible solutions to the problem.

“With ENZ promoting New Zealand to Indian students through different programs, it’s important that both ENZ and Immigration New Zealand work in synergy so that visa refusals can be reduced,” stated Kanwar.

“New Zealand could simplify the documentation process for student visas by providing clear guidelines and checklists, it can offer detailed reasons behind study visa rejections, conduct training programs for educational agents and counsellors in India, conducted by INZ or ENZ, and could periodically review its visa policies to ensure they align with current educational and economic goals,” suggested Kayande.

The post Roadblocks fuel visa rejections for NZ-bound Indian students appeared first on The PIE News.

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