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Student loans
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Can my student loan remain interest-free while overseas?

Find out about interest-free student loans while you're overseas.

In most cases you won't qualify for an interest-free loan if you go overseas for 184 days (about 6 months) or more. However you may still qualify for your existing loan to remain interest-free if you meet the conditions for one of the following situations:

There are two additional circumstances where you may still qualify for your existing loan to remain interest-free:

Applying for an interest-free student loan

If any of these situations apply to you and you meet the conditions for your existing loan to remain interest-free, you'll need to send us a letter and include the relevant proof of the situation you're applying for. Please send us a photocopy of any documentation, not the originals.

Find the correct address to post your application to

Studying  overseas

If the main reason you left New Zealand was to study overseas, you may be able to get an interest-free student loan if your course meets certain criteria.

Read the table below to find out what you need to do:

If you're studying overseas and ... then you'll need to give us ...
it's with an overseas education provider at undergraduate or post graduate level
  • an Overseas Study Assessment and the security number verifying that the course is equivalent to levels 7, 8, 9 or 10
  • evidence from your overseas education provider confirming your full-time enrolment for the course verified by NZQA
  • your study start and end dates
  • any other relevant information such as receipts for fees.
you're studying full-time and enrolled with a New Zealand tertiary provider and completing post-graduate study (level 8 or above) that is unable to be completed in New Zealand

confirmation from your New Zealand tertiary provider that:

  • you're enrolled with them and, if completed successfully, your study will count towards a New Zealand tertiary qualification
  • your study is equivalent to level 8 or above on the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications, and
  • your course is full-time and undertaken overseas because it can't be completed in New Zealand.
you're studying full-time and part of a formal exchange from a New Zealand tertiary education provider at undergraduate (level 7) or above

confirmation from your New Zealand tertiary provider that:

  • you're enrolled with them and, if completed successfully, your study will count towards a New Zealand tertiary qualification
  • your study is equivalent to level 7 or above on the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications
  • your study is full-time and is undertaken overseas as part of either-
    • a formal exchange programme approved by the New Zealand Government; or
    • a formal agreement between a New Zealand tertiary education provider and an overseas tertiary education provider.

If you're not sure if your course meets the criteria, check out the KiwiQuals website.


 

Applying for an interest-free loan

Living in Niue, Cook Islands, Tokelau or Ross Dependency

You can apply for your loan to be interest-free if you're living in one or more of the following locations, for six months or more:

  • Niue
  • Cook Islands
  • Tokelau
  • Ross Dependency

For your loan to remain interest-free, you must keep up to date with your repayment obligations. This includes filing any income tax returns that you're required to and making you student loan repayments on time.

You'll need to provide proof that you've been living in one or more of the above locations for six months or more and show that you didn't leave  for more than 31 days (in total) during the first six months you were there.

We'll accept:

  • information from Customs, from each location you lived in, showing all travel for the period you're requesting an interest-free student loan, and/or
  • a letter from an employer stating you are/were their employee and providing the dates you started and ended your employment (if applicable), any dates you may have been away from work and your employer's contact details.

Applying for an interest-free loan

Working overseas for the New Zealand Government

You may qualify for an interest-free student loan if the reason you went overseas is because you're working for the New Zealand Government.

You'll need a letter from the government agency you're working for, on their letterhead. This will need to state your name, IRD number, the length of time you'll spend overseas, and that your time overseas is for work for the New Zealand Government.

Applying for an interest-free loan

Working for a New Zealand employer overseas

If you're usually based in New Zealand and are working for a New Zealand employer, your student loan may still be interest-free while you're overseas. You must be a New Zealand tax resident while you're overseas and be able to show that you:

  • have a permanent place of abode (address) only in New Zealand, and
  • receive salary or wages from a New Zealand employer, or
  • receive income from a business with a permanent base in New Zealand.

You'll need to provide a completed New Zealand tax residence questionnaire (IR886) and a letter from the person or business you're working for, on their letterhead stating your name, IRD number, the length of time you'll spend overseas, and that the reason you're overseas is for your job.

Applying for an interest-free loan

Working as a volunteer overseas

You can get an interest-free student loan for up to 24 months if you're working overseas as a volunteer, or for token payment, for an approved charitable organisation. The charity or organisation you're volunteering with must have been an approved charitable organisation at the time you did the work.

To qualify, your work needs to mainly involve working for the relief of poverty, hunger, sickness, the ravages of war or natural disaster, or improving the economy/raising the education standards of a country that is listed on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's list of countries receiving development assistance.

You'll need to provide a letter from the charitable organisation on their letterhead, stating your name, IRD number, the length of time you'll spend overseas, and that the reason you're overseas is because you're doing charity work for the organisation.

You'll also need to declare your worldwide income at the end of each tax year.

Applying for an interest-free loan

Accompanying your partner overseas

If you're heading overseas because your partner is involved with one of the following, your student loan may be interest-free while you're away.

  • studying overseas
  • working overseas for the New Zealand Government
  • working for a New Zealand business overseas
  • working as a volunteer overseas.

A partner includes your husband or wife, a civil union partner or a de facto partner.

We'll need proof of your relationship with your application, such as:

  • a copy of your marriage or civil union certificate
  • a copy of your tenancy agreement or joint property mortgage, and
  • statements showing household account or bank accounts in your joint names.

To apply, you must be a New Zealand resident for tax purposes while you're away and be able to show that you accompanied your or partner overseas for one of the reasons above.

Find out your personal tax residence status

Applying for an interest-free loan

Unexpected delay returning to New Zealand

You may still qualify for your loan to be interest-free if you were intending to be overseas for less than 6 months but were prevented from returning due to any of the following reasons:

  • airline strikes
  • personal illness
  • death or illness of a family member
  • fire, flood, storm, earthquake, landslide or volcanic eruption
  • an explosion or nuclear, biological, or chemical contamination
  • sabotage, terrorism or an act of war.

You'll need to have been:

  • a New Zealand resident for tax purposes while you were overseas
  • be able to show that you would have qualified for an interest-free loan if you hadn't been delayed, and
  • show that the delay was due to events beyond your control.

Find out your personal tax residence status


 

Examples of proof include:

  • an airline ticket showing the change in departure/arrival date
  •  
  • a medical certificate or a letter from a doctor
  • a death certificate
  • airline strike documentation
  • media coverage in cases of war.

Applying for an interest-free loan

Unplanned absence

If you've returned with the intention to remain in New Zealand after being an overseas based borrower, and have an unplanned absence of more than 31 days during the first 183 days of being back, you may still qualify for your loan to be interest-free from the date you first returned.

You'll need to show us the trip was for something beyond your control, such as a death in the family or a conference for work.

You must be a New Zealand resident for tax purposes while you were away and be able to provide proof like:

  • airline tickets or hotel accommodation
  • a medical certificate or letter from a doctor
  • a death certificate
  • a letter from your employer confirming your absence, or a copy of a business contract.

Find out your personal tax residence status

Applying for an interest-free loan


Date published: 21 May 2013

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