Hundreds of international students studying at New Zealand private educational institutions could be deported because of suspected visa fraud.
Immigration New Zealand has sent deportation liability notices to a number of Indian students following an investigation of the visa application documents used to gain access to the country.
India is the second largest and fastest growing source of international students in New Zealand, second only to China.
In 2015 there were more than 24,000 Indian students enrolled to study here, an increase of 50 percent from the year before, according to Education New Zealand.
Student visa applicants are required by Immigration NZ to provide proof that they have enough money for living costs while studying and living in New Zealand. They also need to prove they have a return airline ticket to their home country or proof that they have enough money to buy one.
Immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont, whose firm is acting for a number of these at-risk students, says almost all of the fraud relates to fake bank loan documents.
He says their applications were prepared by unlicensed Indian education agents in India, who faked the students’ loan documents.
McClymont’s clients deny any knowledge of the fake bank documents prepared on their behalf by these agents. They claim they never applied for the loans for which they are accused of faking documentation.
“My understanding is that Immigration NZ readily acknowledges the fraud is generated by unlicensed education agents in India and that Indian banks are complicit in the fraud,” says McClymont.
Indian students wanting to study in New Zealand often go through "agents" who help organise their documents, visa, and suggest places to study.
But there are few rules and regulations that govern what agent can do, say or how much they can get paid.
...we cannot control people’s greed. It’s a business with a lot of opportunity.
Navneet Singh, an education consultant based in India, told The Wireless a lot of the problems are tied to commission rates the private educational establishments (PTEs) in New Zealand offer agents.
PTEs attract about 74 per cent of Indian students, according to Education NZ.
“The commission levels that a few PTEs offer are unheard of,” he says.
Indian agents can collect between 15 and 50 percent commission on average per student, paid by the PTE in New Zealand and the issues are exacerbated by the fact there is “no clear system” of agent authorisation, says Navneet.
“There are a lot of loopholes in which you can play around with the system and people do. The onus lies on the students and I would say, in a big way, on New Zealand Immigration to educate people.
“The system only works when the government is a little bit stronger on it. Until then we cannot control people’s greed. It’s a business with a lot of opportunity.”
McClymont says that the NZ schools and NZQA need to be more stringent in their approach. He says agents in India should be required to undertake character checks with Immigration NZ.
NZQA which sets the standards for the courses could also reduce the number of scams by insisting that all education agents used by NZ private education institutions must be licensed, he says.
“Questions must be asked about the robustness of the processes relating to the selection of these agents by these schools,” says McClymont.
“The education agents perpetrating these scams need to be put out of business before they can ruin the lives of any more young people.”
- International education is New Zealand's fifth biggest export industry. It’s worth more than $2.5 billion.
- The Government wants to double the total value of international education to $5 billion by 2025.
- India is New Zealand’s second-largest and fastest-growing source country for international students.
- More than 20,000 Indian students were enrolled to study in New Zealand in 2015
- About three quarters of them studied at Private Training Establishments (PTEs)
- Student visas are usually granted for two years of study. The terms of their visa also allow them to work for a maximum of 20 hours per week, and fulltime during study breaks.
- Following graduation the students are eligible to apply for a Post-Study Work Visa that allows them to find a job relevant to their new qualification. It’s valid for 12 months. During this time they can work for almost any employer in New Zealand.
- After the graduate has found a job relevant to their qualification they can apply for a Post-Study Work Visa (Employer-Assisted). Following this they may qualify for a New Zealand resident visa under the Skilled Migrant category.
If you're an international student and want to share your story, contact Mava at The Wireless.