Expat Kiwi high-tech marketer Ash Gorringe has always paid his student loan on time - yet it's more than doubled to $109,000 because of the interest.
Gorringe, 42, is now based in San Francisco but keeps close links with New Zealand and helped to start the Māori-language version of Google.
He left the country almost straight after graduating from Auckland University with a master's degree in history and a $50,000 student loan in 2002, working in Australia, Britain and now the United States.
He has always paid the amounts requested by Inland Revenue, which are based on the size of the outstanding loan - $5000 a year for a loan above $60,000.
But his debt kept on growing until last year because the interest added to the loan each year was more than $5000.
A Herald investigation has found that many of the 108,840 New Zealanders now living overseas with outstanding student loans are afraid to come home since Inland Revenue was given power in 2014 to arrest overdue debtors when they crossed the New Zealand border.
But Gorringe said he felt he was being penalised even though his loan had never been overdue.
"As I reach a point in my life where the age of retirement will soon be closer than when I started my studies, I can't imagine reaching 65 and still having to service this loan, at which point I would have been repaying it for 37 years," he said.
"I think many of us in this situation feel that we don't have any voice.
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"A lot of us have remained in good standing with our repayments, continue to have strong ties to New Zealand, do not want to declare bankruptcy and wish to keep travelling to New Zealand on our NZ passports. But it sometimes feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel."
All student loan borrowers had interest added to their loans each year until April 2006.
Since then the loans have been interest-free for borrowers who stay in New Zealand, but interest is still charged for those living overseas - about one-seventh of the 708,518 people with outstanding loans.
The annual interest rate was 7 per cent until 2006, and has dropped gradually since then to 4.8 per cent in 2016-17, 4.4 per cent in 2017-18, 4.3 per cent in the year to last March and 4 per cent in the current tax year.
Even at 4.8 per cent, the interest on Gorringe's loan which was then $111,000 was $5328 - more than the $5000 that he was paying off each year. It finally dropped below $5000 last year.
"So I'm just starting to get my head above water with it," he said. "To now get it back down is a very long slog."
Gorringe got into marketing for high-tech companies through a part-time job with Spark's internet service xtra while he was at university. That got him a job with Nine-MSN in Sydney and then Google and other tech companies in San Francisco.
He represented Google at the launch of Google's te reo Māori platform in Rotorua during Māori Language Week in 2008.
"I worked alongside the people who were spearheading te reo to promote it within Google," he said.
"We feel that we are still New Zealanders, and just because we made decisions, and in many cases our lives are now overseas for various reasons, that's how the world works now.
"We have got families in New Zealand and we don't want to have to travel on foreign passports, which is what people are doing now and they will enter New Zealand on a foreign passport so they can't be stopped."
He said he was "comfortably off", but was still renting his apartment.
"I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world," he said.
"Of course it's my choice, I get that. But as a result I only have so much disposable income to put towards this, and it's kind of like, hey, am I still going to be paying this in my seventies and eighties?"
He noted that student loans in Britain were written off if they were still outstanding 30 years after the first repayment was due.