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If the principal reason you are overseas is to volunteer for a charitable organisation you may be able to keep your student loan interest-free. The organisation you’re volunteering for must be on the charitable organisations list when you’re volunteering. You can receive a token payment from the charity and still be eligible. The interest-free period can be up to 24 months.

Your volunteer work needs to be either:

  • to relieve poverty, hunger, sickness or the impacts of war or natural disaster
  • to improve the economy or raise the educational standards of a country on the OECD list of countries receiving development assistance.  

You’ll need to provide a letter from the organisation stating:

  • your name
  • your IRD number
  • the length of time you’ll spend overseas
  • the specific tasks and duties that you are undertaking
  • details of any payments you may receive for the work.

This letter will need to be on the charitable organisation’s letterhead. For the list of approved organisations and information about their role in the student loan scheme, see the following links.

Working for a charity overseas when you have a student loan

Charitable organisations and the student loan scheme


If we approve your application you will need to tell us your worldwide income – you may still need to make repayments while you are overseas. If you are applying for previous years, you will also need to give us your worldwide income for those tax years.

Apply to keep my student loan interest free