ANANYA* left her first job in New Zealand when her supervisor told her she would have to sleep with him to get her residency.
She was shocked that the man, a fellow Indian, could suggest such a thing - not only because it deeply offended her but because she had assumed that kind of behaviour would not happen here.
"I want residency but it doesn't mean I have to sleep with someone - because I am a lady - or that I have to pay someone. I just moved from India because I don't like corruption everywhere."
She finds it frustrating that she has struggled to stay in New Zealand honestly when so many other Indians have used the student visa pathway to cheat the system.
"I'm on the right path, so I'm not getting residency. But if I had given money to other people, I would have been fine. That's the message I'm getting."
Ananya says she once went for a job interview with a recruitment agency, where she was offered a three-month fake job, if she paid the agency $50,000.
She also knows a woman who was temporarily in charge of a jewellery shop, who paid $40,000 for a job letter declaring she was a retail manager to get her residency.
Then there was a man who paid $10,000 for an accountant's job to get his residency visa. The "job" lasted three months, she says. He is now working as a bouncer.
Ananya, who is 37, admits she was hopelessly under-prepared for life in New Zealand at first.
She came from a middle-class family - her father was a doctor - and she had slept in the same bed as her mother until she was 31. When she arrived in Auckland and got her first ATM card she had no idea how to use it.
Ananya arrived here with two arts degrees, a post-graduate diploma in business management and two years work experience in human resources. But she discovered that counted for little in New Zealand and she would effectively have to start again. She did a graduate level diploma in business management but found, like most of her immigrant classmates, that she couldn't get a job in her chosen field without "Kiwi work experience".
Ananya supported herself through the course by working as a cleaner for the minimum wage, until her supervisor propositioned her. For the last three years she has worked her way up in a supermarket to checkout manager, earning $37,000 a year for a minimum 42-hour week, paying for her own professional development - including $340 for a liquor licence course - and desperately hoping that her improving work status will give her enough points to gain residency.
Ananya says it's hard to get by in Auckland on $590 a week, once she has paid $180 a week in rent and sent money home to her retired parents in India.
But she cannot go back home either because her parents spent her $25,000 dowry on her education in New Zealand instead. At 37, it would also be too shameful to return without a husband so her only future is here.
Ananya says she understands why the Government has encouraged so many international students from poor countries like India to come here - to do the low-paid jobs that New Zealanders don't want and that immigrants only do for the sake of winning residency.
"Think from your point of view, if you were getting so little money, would you do it? I wouldn't, if I was a resident.
"How many Kiwis are working in a supermarket? Tell me honestly - nobody works there."
If she does win her residency, Ananya wants to work for Immigration New Zealand and tackle the fraudsters, so honest immigrants have a chance.
"If anyone is doing any fake stuff or not following the rules, they have to be deported. It's not fair on us."
* Not her real name.
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