A country in an economic crisis should not want tax-paying residents who contribute to the quality of education to leave the country, writes Amine Fquihi of the International Students' Union.

By Amine Fquihi

English translation of Khrono's article that ISU Norway's National President, Amine Fquihi, wrote. To read the original Norwegian version of the article see: "Hvorfor ikke yte finansiell nødhjelp til studenter som betaler skatt til Norge?".

 

ISU Norway has 28 branches in 19 institutions around Norway. These represent dozens of nationalities from around the world. Based on responses from a survey of the financial well-being of international students in Norway following the Covid-19 pandemic, it is clear that international students have been severely affected by the impact of Covid-19 in society.

As many as 77 percent of international students worked (compared to 70 percent of Norwegian students who work part-time), and 64 percent of these have lost their part-time jobs.

59 percent are at risk of not being able to pay their rent. Furthermore, 80 per cent depended on their salary to meet the obligation for the amount required to renew their student visas. Without these additional funds, many of the students will not be eligible to renew their student visas.

When Minister Henrik Asheim spoke about student visas in Norway in his interview in Khrono, he said one thing that is not correct: “Those who are outside the EEA should also have enough money to support themselves independently of if they have a job in Norway or not”.

According to the UDI website, it says that when you renew your student visa, you must “have enough money to live on, i.e. at least  NOK 121 220 per year . This money may consist of student loans, grants, own funds that you have in your account in a Norwegian bank, or a combination of the above. If you have a part-time job in Norway, income from this work may be included”.

This means that an international student may very well be dependent on his or her job to renew his or her student visa and have saved money from this in advance of their renewal.

For their student visas, international students must prove every year that they have the same sum that Norwegian students receive from the Loan Fund (Lånekassen) in the form of grants and loans. The authorities make it clear that they do not believe that NOK 121,220 is enough for the students to cover their expenses with the losses of part-time jobs students have suffered during this crisis. It should come as no surprise that international students have also been hit hard financially by job losses, in the same way as other students in Norway.

People who work in Norway should be treated equally throughout this crisis. People who choose to study in Norway, international or not, are between 19-50 years old, some have children, loans, and other needs that are difficult to attend to because of this crisis.

Although 73 percent say they plan to stay with their studies for the rest of this year and next year, there is no denying that there is a danger that these students will have to end their studies and leave the country until they have saved up enough money to renew their student visas.

The crisis is a global situation, and many of the homelands of international students are also likely to have implemented quarantine measures. Furthermore, a loss of master's studies will result in many losses when it comes to the quality of research being produced in Norway.

“A country in the midst of an economic crisis should not want productive, tax-paying residents, all of whom contribute to the quality of the educational system in Norway, leaving the country at this time.”

It is universally understood that internationalization raises the quality of higher education. Having international students who can study exempt from semester fees in Norway is a contribution to sustainability. We are reasonably sure that the authorities do not want students to be thrown into the streets because they cannot pay their rent.

Norway is known for its support for emergency aid. According to NORAD, in 2018 the Norwegian authorities donated NOK 34.6 billion to international emergency aid. If this country can be so generous with emergency aid abroad, why not provide financial aid to students who help pay taxes to Norway? International students expect the Norwegian authorities to show the same care for them, who have been laid off or dismissed from their jobs due to the crisis, that is being shown to the countries from which they come.

The International Students Union of Norway urges the Norwegian authorities not to close their eyes to the economic situation that many of those living in Norway are struggling with. Many international students rely on an income to live on and the savings they have in order to have enough money to meet the requirements for their student visa renewal.

We need the authorities to waive the amount required for student visas and semester fees.

 

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