A poster boy for Victoria University's international student programme faces being kicked out of New Zealand on a bureaucratic technicality.
Chinese student Xinkang "Jack" Du has been in the country for six years and recently graduated with a first-class honours degree in biomedical science and marine biology from Victoria University.
He says he wants to stay in New Zealand and contribute to the country he has fallen in love with. But his application for an extension to his student visa was denied in May because of the late delivery of a criminal record check from China.
Mr Du was subsequently awarded his degree and submitted the police certificate, showing a clean record, when it arrived on June 18.
But when he then applied for a graduate job search visa, it was declined because he was in New Zealand without a valid visa while waiting for the certificate.
Mr Du has paid about $25,000 a year to study at Victoria and, despite having top grades, has been unable to apply for scholarships because he is an international student.
He has worked at several part-time jobs during his six years in New Zealand, including an internship at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, and as a caregiver. One of his career goals is to be a medical researcher.
He said yesterday that, though he accepted that obtaining the police certificate was his responsibility, he was shocked at the visa rejections.
He had planned to stay in New Zealand and use his skills, which are on the Immigration NZ shortages list, as he believed they would be put to better use than in China.
"It's very sudden, it just feels like it's out of nowhere and obviously I've had plans, I'm quite keen to use my skills to make a difference here.
"It seems harsh for someone who has been studying here ... I was hoping to make a difference."
When Mr Du arrived in New Zealand, he enrolled in Victoria's foundation programme, which gives international students the skills to study in a foreign country.
He graduated first in the class and is profiled on the homepage for the programme, as well as having appeared on the front of a brochure advertising it.
Several Victoria staff have written letters of support for Mr Du, also pointing to the damage his case could cause to New Zealand's reputation in the Chinese education market.
Malaghan Institute director Graham Le Gros said Mr Du's plight seemed bizarre.
"It would be ridiculous if a technical issue was given as the reason for him not being able to contribute to New Zealand science. If he has done well, of course we want him."
Professor Le Gros said he had written many letters to Immigration NZ in support of promising scientists seeking visas in the past, and they were always granted.
A Victoria University spokeswoman said several international students had been assisted this year with their visa renewals after the late submission of a criminal record or medical check, and most had been granted.
Mr Du's case has now been referred to Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson.
2006: Jack Du arrives in New Zealand for six years of study and renews his student visa every year with no problems.
March 2012: With his student visa due to expire on March 31 but graduation in June, he applies for an extension, but has to submit his application without a Chinese police certificate because it has not arrived.
May: Immigration NZ rejects his application because of the lack of a police certificate.
June: Mr Du graduates and his police certificate arrives. He applies for a graduate job search visa, but it is denied because he has been in New Zealand for a month without a valid visa.
- © Fairfax NZ News