Immigration officials are warning New Zealand's reputation as a destination for international students is at risk because of widespread evidence that Indian students are taking on debts for study here that lead to their exploitation in New Zealand workplaces.

This month's India Student Market newsletter, published on the Immigration New Zealand website, cites "recent trends of misrepresentation and examples of fraudulent documentation" had prompted a reiteration of warnings issued to Indian students wishing to study in New Zealand, and the potential to "see more of the issues regularly reported in New Zealand about students being in debt, exploited in workplaces, and being distracted from the key objective of their stay in New Zealand - which is to study."

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"That students are widely reported as needing to work immediately upon arrival in order to survive in New Zealand should be of great concern to all involved in the reputation of New Zealand's export education sector," the newsletter said. "We appreciate that in many cases there is a degree of debt one incurs when seeking to study overseas. However, there is an obvious link between onshore employment and workplace exploitation and the means and ways South Asian students claimed to be funding their study when first applying to INZ Mumbai."


The warnings follow an unprecedented surge in applicants by Indian students in October, as they sought to beat the deadline for new English language competence rules that are designed to curb a flood of Indian students enrolling in private training establishments for courses of study in New Zealand, where they are also permitted to work while studying.

An extension to that deadline in October meant that Immigration NZ "experienced an unplanned increase in applications on an unprecedented scale", with more than 8,300 student visa applications lodged at the Mumbai office of INZ in September and October, a 63 percent increase compared to the same period a year earlier.

INZ has been concerned for more than a year that large numbers of Indian students may be arriving in New Zealand more interested in exploiting the work rights available under student visas than the often low-value, vocational skills courses offered by many PTEs.

The trend is raising concerns that student visas are being used as a de facto way to migrate to New Zealand permanently.

Chinese and Indian students have been driving strong growth in international student arrivals, but while Chinese students are predominantly heading to universities and polytechnics, Indian students are overwhelmingly enrolling in sub-degree independent training provider and PTE courses.

Of the 7,922 additional student visas issued in the first nine months of this year, 3,426 were for Indian students, an increase of 25 percent on last year, according to a report on the ICEF international education news website.

Chinese enrolments tend to be distributed across all sectors but skew towards the universities and Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs). Indian students, in contrast, are more sharply concentrated in ITP and PTE programmes.

Analysis by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has found that 51 percent and 62 percent of PTE and ITP international students respectively have been staying in New Zealand after completing their study. The trend is raising concerns that student visas are being used as a de facto way to migrate to New Zealand permanently, with Indian students far and away the most likely to remain in New Zealand compared to other sources of foreign students since 2009.

The proportions of international students staying on in New Zealand are highly concentrated in areas of management and commerce, food, hospitality and personal services, IT and health.