Travel Measures for TELS Students’ Guarantors As FRCS Sets Bond Clearance Requirements

Fijian authorities have implemented new measures for guarantors of overseas-based and overseas-bound Tertiary Education Loan Scheme (TELS) students who have not repaid their study loans or served their bond in Fiji.

Fiji Revenue Customs Service Director Taxation Momina Beg says guarantors will now require FRCS clearance if they want to travel overseas.

In cases of emergency or work-related travel lasting three months or less, guarantors can obtain temporary clearance by completing a form, providing passport information, and showing a return ticket. However, if the travel duration exceeds three months or the guarantor is a frequent traveler, the TELS student will be required to change their guarantor.

The newly introduced mechanism follows Fiji Government’s decision to convert TELS loan repayment agreement into bonding conditions, effective from August 1 this year. This allows sponsored students the option to serve a specified time in Fiji instead of repaying their loans. Starting from August 1 TELS students who have not fulfilled their study loan repayments will automatically have their loan agreements converted into bonding conditions.

According to the latest data from the Tertiary Scholarships and Loans Service (TSLS), only two percent of TELS students (1,190 out of 55,451 TELS-sponsored students) have fully paid their study loans since 2014 when the scheme was introduced. Out of the remaining students, 53,725 are eligible to have their loans converted to bonds. In-service students (536) who are already working and required to pay their dues are excluded from this count.

Students who have served their bond by working in Fiji for the prescribed time according to their study years need to notify the Revenue Customs Service to obtain a clearance letter. Students who are employed locally and are unsure if they have fulfilled their bond time can also contact the Revenue Customs Service for assistance in determining their status.

For TELS-sponsored students who have not yet served their bond and wish to travel abroad for medical, vacation, or temporary work purposes, the requirements for guarantors remain the same. Those who intend to migrate or choose not to fulfill their bond agreement will be required to repay the owed amount to the government. TELS students or former students who have migrated overseas and have not repaid their loans will need to continue repayment through existing arrangements with the Revenue Customs Service. If they default, their outstanding debt will be recovered from their guarantors.

Repayments made by students or former students before August 1, 2023, whether partial or in full, will not be reimbursed.

Among the 55,451 TELS-sponsored students, 22,141 have graduated, 11,625 are currently on an active bond term, and the remaining 21,685 students are either absent or inactive, and their employment status is unknown.

FRCS Requirements for Bond Clearance, Overseas Travel, and Guarantors

To receive clearance, students who have completed their bond must provide:

  • Graduation certificate or completion letter.
  • Employment contract demonstrating the period of employment and bond completion.
  • Confirmed Tertiary Scholarship and Loans (TSLS) letter.
  • Biodata page of their passport or birth certificate.
  • FRCS will calculate the bond duration and inform students if their bond has been satisfactorily served. Upon verification, FRCS will issue the clearance, allowing the students to proceed with their future endeavors.
  • TELS students should not wait until 1 August to contact FRCS. They can start reaching out now.

Clearance Process for Students Studying Overseas:

Students who have graduated or terminated their studies but have yet to complete their bond and intend to travel abroad must follow specific procedures to obtain temporary clearance seven days prior to departure. The requirements for temporary clearance depend on the purpose of travel.

  • Employment Purposes:
    Students seeking employment overseas should apply for temporary release. They must provide two guarantors and establish a time-to-pay arrangement for bond repayment since they will be abroad and unable to serve in Fiji.
  • Study Purposes:
    Students intending to pursue further studies overseas need to apply for temporary release with two guarantors. They can travel without immediate repayment obligations. They can choose to return home and serve the remaining bond period or make voluntary payments during this period
  • Migration Purposes:
    Students planning to migrate but have not fulfilled their bond obligations must clear their outstanding commitments before departure, as per the existing payment arrangement with FRCS.

Requirements for Guarantors:

Guarantors who have signed as sponsors for students leaving the country are also subject to clearance processes if they need to travel overseas. These individuals need to ensure their presence in Fiji while the students are abroad. However, guarantors are permitted to travel under certain circumstances.

  • Emergency or Work Purposes:
    Guarantors traveling for emergency or work purposes can obtain temporary clearance by completing a form and providing their passport’s biodata page and return ticket. This clearance is usually granted for visits lasting three months or less.
  • Extended Travel or Frequent Flyer:
    If the purpose of travel exceeds three months or if the guarantor is a frequent traveler, the TELS student is required to change their guarantors accordingly.
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