Rapti moved to Auckland after she received an offer to pursue a doctorate at a leading university in the country. Her husband had a job that entailed frequent travels and so it was but logical for her to bring their minor daughter, Meghna, along with her. They had both got medical insurance - for Rapti as part of her visa requirement and for Meghna in case of emergency.

On arriving in Auckland, Rapti was advised to register with the university health services. But the same services do not register dependents. In due course she found out that she couldn’t even register Meghna with a general practitioner outside of the university. It means, every time Meghna needs to go to the doctor for a checkup, Rapti will have to pay a huge sum of money as consultation fee. Of course, this fee can be claimed back from the insurance provider. But, the fee is so high that it is difficult for a person on a student budget to shell it out each time. And, children do fall ill mostly when it is most inconvenient, or so says Murphy’s law.

A general practitioner registers an international student with the clinic only if their visa is valid for a duration of 24 months minimum. Rapti was in the country for a 3 to 4-year-long programme, but she could not secure a scholarship. As such, her visa would only be valid for one year at a time. Thus, she did not qualify to register with the clinic.

This, thankfully, did not include ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) which is offered free of cost to every resident and visitor in the country.

My questions: Is this a logical course of action? If you are inviting scholars to engage in doctoral research in the country, should the authorities not provide them with relevant healthcare facilities? Just for your information, the consultation fees that an international visitor has to pay for a mere cold and flu, begins from $120 upwards. How many students can afford to rustle up that sum, even if it can be claimed back from the insurance provider?
When Rapti applied for her student visa, she was not told about these clauses. Or even the fact that the one-year visa that will be issued to her each time does not cover basic facilities for her dependent minor child. Is this fair on her given that she is a tax-payer of the land? Yes, she works at the university and being an international student, pays a heavy tax. This is beyond the annual fees she pays the university.

Of course, she can claim returns on income tax. But then, on a weekly basis, her earnings are sans the high tax she pays.

Can the authorities not smoothen these creases and make it worthwhile for an international student to pursue a few years of research in this country? The student not only brings in skills and expertise to the market, but the university gets government fund for each student on top of the fees that the student pays.

I understand the entire process rests on give and take. There are a lot of facilities that a PhD student enjoys, for example free public school education for their dependent child. But medical facility is among the basic requirements for an individual. By that logic, resident medical facilities should be extended to international students too who undertake long-term studies.

What do you say?