A recent INZ newsletter has highlighted the concerns they have for families taking on high levels of debt to fund their children s’ education overseas, such as New Zealand, and the increasing risk that the students will be exploited in the workplace as families apply pressure to send money home to pay off their debts.

The concerns are mostly focused on students from Asia and in particular India. Whilst it is very common for families to mortgage their land or property to fund their children’s education overseas the concerns are leveled at those who are most desperate to send their children overseas but are stretching themselves beyond their means to achieve this. In turn the student is immediately under pressure to find work and send money home to help pay off these debts.

The consequence of this pressure is two fold, firstly the student may be encouraged or feel obligated to work more than their permitted 20 hours a week, thus breaching their visa conditions which in turn can cause character concerns for future visa applications. In working more than the permitted time they are also committing less time to their studies, which in turn can lead to issues with study outcomes. Failing papers and not completing the course could see the student heading home with nothing more than a big debt to pay off.

The second concern is in their desperation to find work they may find themselves working for unscrupulous employers who expect them to work longer hours than permitted and generally for cash at well under the minimum salary requirements. These employers are generally from within their own ethnic community who feed off the desperation the students have to send money home. Whilst the situation is deplorable the reality is that it unfortunately happens far too often.

The applicants need to understand that INZ issues student visas for the exclusive purpose of study and the work right given on a student visas is a privilege and not a means for students to rely on these to earn their maintenance funds. It is their or their sponsors’ responsibility to ensure that they are suitably funded for their duration of study for their living expenses.

In issuing their warning INZ is doing so with a duty of care for the well-being of prospective international students. It is appreciated that export education makes a significant contribution to the New Zealand economy and this is forecast to grow, but this should not be at the cost of individuals entering into mountains of unmanageable debt and falling foul to the ruthless exploitation of some employers.

Whilst many families strive to send their children to study overseas with the hope of permanent migration and a better life they should obtain appropriate professional advice first so they can make a balanced and informed decision. It is important that students considering coming to New Zealand wisely assess if their families have suitable means to sponsor their studies without them needing to rely on their work rights. Desperation to work is likely to have an impact on their performance in studies as well as they become more vulnerable to work place exploitation.

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