More than 1700 international students stuck overseas have lost their visa status in the month of August as another month of uncertainty passes by in absence of any intervention from the government.

These numbers include student visa holders under different categories - English language study, Exchange student, Full fee paying, Pathway, and Scholarship holders.

INZ revealed this information while responding to the Indian Weekender’s query on the number of international students currently stranded overseas and facing a risk of loosing their visa status by the end of the year.

The response from the INZ revealed that visas of 2247 international students currently stranded overseas will expire by the end of this year, with 1704 visas having expired in the month of August.

As of August 23, 2020, there were 5,182 international students stranded outside New Zealand borders (out of which now 1704 would have expired by the end of the month of August).

This figure of international students stranded overseas currently would include, both student visa holders who may have previously travelled to New Zealand and those who have not yet travelled to New Zealand.

INZ also revealed that currently there were 39,794 international students onshore, with around 15,000 international students having been issued in the first three months of January (5037), February (5367) & March (4217) before borders were closed.

Notably, the government has been playing a waiting game since March when the New Zealand borders were first closed to keep the Covid-19 virus away and the country went into Alert Level 4 lockdown.

Almost six months have passed since then, with tens of thousands of temporary migrant workers stuck overseas and gradually losing their visa status with each passing month, with no clarity whatsoever of what government intends to do to help their situation.

Earlier, the government has also hurriedly passed the new legislation Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Act on May 15 under the Alert Level 4 lockdown to grant exceptional powers to Immigration Minister, supposedly to act expeditiously for a large number of temporary visa holders whose visas were expiring soon.

However, no follow up action has yet been taken three months after the new legislation bringing despondency among a large number of temporary migrants stuck overseas.

Full-fee paying international students who are currently caught up in border closure are bearing incredible pressures and burden after having invested tens of thousands of dollars for international education, apart from investing in their lives in NZ, are no stuck overseas with no clear advice from the government.

Sakshi, an international student currently stranded in India is worried that her whopping investment of around $40,000 might be wasted along with a prospective new life in NZ if she did not hear soon from authorities about her visa status.

 

I started level 9 course in March 2019 at Otago Polytechnic and was in the last leg of my course before being stuck overseas for almost 6 months.

I have also lost my part time job in NZ and have no source of income here while I am being stuck. Although I managed to pay rent till June but had to vacate the property and sell all furniture, appliances and the car.

“I have paid $36,000 for this level 7 course and am now compelled to study online for the last 6 months with no guarantees that this period will contribute towards meeting the requirement of 30 hour per week towards post-study work visa,” Sakshi said dejectedly.

Immigration New Zealand has told the Indian Weekender that international students stuck overseas, and currently pursuing studies online will still have to meet conditions for eligibility or getting post study work visa.

No respite for studying online from overseas for getting post-study work visas

“Students who have completed their qualification must meet the relevant immigration instruction requirements to be granted a post-study work visa.

“To be eligible for post study work visas, qualifications must meet minimum level and duration requirements. These are: a minimum of 30 weeks study in NZ for qualifications at level 7 or above, or 60 weeks study in NZ for qualifications at levels 4-6.  The duration requirements for levels 4-6 can be comprised of one qualification at 60 weeks or two qualifications at 30 weeks each (where the second qualification is higher than the first, such as level 5 followed by level 6).

“There are no plans to amend the duration in New Zealand requirements for post study work as a result of COVID-19. Study that is done offshore, (whether that is done remotely by distance or online), cannot be counted towards the duration in New Zealand requirement,” the INZ spokesperson said.

Nimisha – another international student stuck overseas told the Indian Weekender that as the time devoted in online studies did not counted towards the requirement for post study work visa therefore she had deferred from her course till she is able to return onshore.

However, she shared her financial distress as she is still continuing paying off interest for the bank loan, she and her family had taken for pursuing international education, despite having no source of income.

There are many such story of destitution and despondency from temporary migrants stuck overseas and hoping for some affirmative action from the government.

Meanwhile, visas of another 9,848 international students currently onshore will be expiring by the end of 2020.