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Q+A: PR Disaster Will Slash Export Education Market

PR Disaster Will Slash Important Export Education Market for NZ: Immigration Agent.

The changes made to foreign students coming to study in New Zealand have been misinterpreted in India will mean a “huge decrease” in the number of student visa applications from that very significant market, says one Indian immigration consultant.
Speaking to One News political reporter Katie Bradford in India, Munish Sekhri said an urgent PR effort was needed so the market wasn’t completely lost.
“We’ll see a huge decrease in the number of student visa applications because people see it in totality, that, ‘If I’m not going to get a pathway to residency, I’m sorry, I’m not going to study there.’” “The changes are good, but [their] interpretation has been very, very negative in India. And I think the New Zealand Government should infuse some money and energy to hire a PR agency in India and try to do some kind of a damage control,” he told Q+A.
Mr Munish says there should be mandatory licensing for on and offshore advisers sending students to New Zealand. There are currently around 2000 agents operating in the Indian market, with only about 30 of those official licensed.


Q + A
Episode 34
Interviewed by KATIE BRADFORD

GREG An immigration consultant in India says our government should ask the Indian government to press charges against the agents who sent students to New Zealand with fraudulent applications. About 150 international students are facing deportation after the fraud was discovered. Munish Sekhri, part of an organisation that represents licenced agents in India, also talked about the recent changes to our immigration policy. He told Katie Bradford that it would have a big impact on the number of Indians wanting to move here to study and live.

MUNISH The major motivation for Indian students to study in New Zealand are migrants is to go and try and settle in New Zealand through study or through work routes to improve their quality of life, right? Now, for Indians the first preference is always going to US or Canada or to Australia, so we have to agree that New Zealand is the third or the fourth choice for students or for migrants right now. It’s a good thing that the changes are happening, but the problem is there has been a lobby which is working against the requirements or the expectations or the goals of Education New Zealand and government of New Zealand as a whole. And that lobby is of those unlicensed and unregulated agents in India who used to say up to two years ago that New Zealand is one of the easiest countries to settle in. You don’t need English. You don’t need old funds. All you need is to pack your bags and take a flight to New Zealand. And that was before the rule 18 was introduced by NZQA, where English language requirements became mandatory. Now the same agents are interpreting this policy in a very bad light, and they’re saying, ‘Please do not go to New Zealand any more. New Zealand has shut down its doors.’ Now nobody is countering this rhetoric in India or in New Zealand.

KATIE And how many registered agents versus unlicensed are there?

MUNISH As per the Immigration New Zealand information available on their website and various newsletters that we receive from INZ Mumbai, there are more than 2000 agents operating in the Indian market, and there are only about 30 or 33 licensed immigration advisors throughout India. So our organisation, Lianz, had been lobbying, had been making representations that we would like to see the mandatory licensing happening for offshore advisors as well. We’re not looking to monopolise the business. What we’re looking for is that more and more people should be brought into the licensing fold so that some accountability can be brought to this industry. Now, I’m sure all of us have heard quite a lot about the students being deported from New Zealand and they’re protesting in front of the member of Parliament’s offices and they’re doing whatever best they can to stay back into the country. Now, many of the students have also said that they are being victimised, which might not be the case if you look into the case details, but there is one fact behind this — that the agents that put them in this wrong spot have gone scot-free. Nothing has happened to those agents. So with the Prime Minister’s visit to India, I hope there could be a mutual diplomatic solution to this problem, where if somebody, some agent in India’s found to be doing something wrong or been exploiting or doing some fraud in this industry, I think, through diplomatic channels, a complaint would be lodged with the Indian authorities so that a message could be sent out to the market. So I hope that the prime minister of both the countries and the other diplomats could reach something like this. In the past we have seen that there has been action taken against agents on the complaints from Australian and British High Commissions.

KATIE How much of the fraud we’ve seen is the students’ fault and how much is the licensed operators? Do you know the number? There must be some students, for instance, who know they don’t have the money, who know they don’t have the English requirements?

MUNISH That’s right. See, I would say that it goes both ways. Yes, there would be a few cases where the students were really innocent and they didn’t know what was going on in their application. We see that on a daily basis. But we see even more is where a student comes with his parents and wants or expects the agent to provide everything, right from a gap-filling education or work-experience document, to provide funding. So it is wrong to suggest that the students are purely innocent. The students entice the agents that, ‘We would pay you any money. Help us.’

KATIE Do you think the changes we’ve seen and the changes that may come — what effect do you think that will have on numbers coming to New Zealand?

MUNISH What we see is that the government ideally wants to attract good talent, good education, good students with good English. That’s fine. But before it gets better, it’s going to get much more worse in short-term to medium-term, and with that I mean about three to six months are going to be very interesting. We’ll see a huge decrease in the number of student visa applications because people see it in totality, that, ‘If I’m not going to get a pathway to residency, I’m sorry, I’m not going to study there.’ But then at the same time, there are so many students who’d like to study in New Zealand, but the Immigration New Zealand fund requirements do not allow them. The changes are good, but its interpretation has been very very negative in India. And I think the New Zealand Government should infuse some money and energy to hire a PR agency in India and try to do some kind of a damage control.

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