International education is our fifth largest export earner, providing more than $3.5 billion in income to New Zealand in the last year and supporting more than 30,000 jobs across the country.
The benefits of international education extend well beyond the economic contribution to the economy. Young New Zealanders live and learn alongside people from other countries, increasing their understanding of other cultures and boosting our links with the world. These links are vital for us to prosper in an increasingly Asia-Pacific world.
India is an important source country for New Zealand when it comes to international education with around 20,000 of our 125,000 students annually coming from India.
Of the 125,000 students who come to New Zealand every year, most of them come in the right way, do it the right way and stay and have a successful time.
However, there have been a number of cases where fraudulent documentation has been submitted. Unfortunately, all of the main English language education countries have experienced some fraud issues in India, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia.
One of the reasons that we have visa rules for students is to look after their welfare while studying in New Zealand. Students are required to have a certain amount of money behind them when they come here so they can support themselves through their study and live comfortably. We don’t want a situation where students are in hardship or are vulnerable to exploitation.
Right now, there are 41 Indian students in New Zealand who face the potential of deportation, some for submitting fraudulent documentation to obtain a visa and others for committing crimes once in New Zealand.
These cases are being worked through and it would be inappropriate to comment on individual cases.
However, this government takes a zero tolerance approach to fraud and if that sort of behaviour has taken place then action will need to be taken. For example, in 2012, New Zealand had the same issue with 253 students from China. Most of that group had their visas cancelled because their documents were fraudulent.
Students make a declaration that the information they have provided for their visas is correct, and it is ultimately their responsibility to make sure it is.
In regards to agents, a new Code of Practice has been introduced that makes education providers explicitly responsible for the behaviour of their agents. This came into effect on July 1 this year.
Immigration New Zealand has increased its resources in its Mumbai office to detect fraud. Currently, around 38% of student visa applications from India are being declined.
While most of the growth in international education has been good for New Zealand, it is important to ensure that all student recruitment in fast-growing markets is done within the rules and regulations that New Zealand sets.