Current international students will be a 'sub-class' under proposed changes - advocate

There's a desperate plea from international students for the Government to widen its scope as it looks to tweak migrant visas.

Proposed changes include adaptations to post-study visas to crack down on worker exploitation, but it will only protect those who arrive after January.

Migrant workers advocate Anu Kaloti says today's students should not be an afterthought.

"They've put in a lot of hard work, they've contributed to the economy here. I see them being exploited even more than they are possibly being exploited now, because they'll be a sub-class of international student."

Other proposed changes include removing the requirement for post-study visas to be sponsored by employers.

Ms Kaloti says if nothing else, whistleblowers in the lucrative, yet scandal-ridden industry need to be protected.

"That protection can be in the form of having the remainder of their temporary visa opened up - not necessarily change the duration of their visa but make it open, so they can go and seek employment with other employers."

But she fears the damage to the billion-dollar industry has already been done.

"Students are now avoiding New Zealand. A lot of the agents back in India - whether they be genuine or not - they're promoting countries like Canada over New Zealand."

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says he's "not that fixated on the numbers in terms of how many students come here", and expects the changes to result in up to $260 million of lost business.

"But let's look at where those cuts are going to happen," Mr Lees-Galloway told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

"They're going to happen amongst the low-quality courses… where students get an education that isn't much value to them."

Public consultation on the changes will open on June 5.