The peak body for international students is examining instances of workplace exploitation to help guide the government on how best to protect temporary migrants from dodgy employers.
The Council of International Students Australia will aim to survey several hundred international students throughout the nation on their experiences with casual and part-time work.
Council public relations officer Arjun Mathilakath Madathil said the organisation wanted to gather data on why, despite public awareness campaigns and national attention on the issue, international students continued to fall prey to workplace exploitation.
The Wage Theft in Australia report released last year revealed one-quarter of international students earned $12 an hour or less and almost half $15 an hour or less, well below the casual minimum wage of $22.13 per hour.
"Most of the students know they are falling for workplace exploitation ... but that doesn't stop them from doing that or going there again because they don't have any other options," Mr Mathilakath Madathil said.
"We need to see why students are still falling prey to this ... what is the need that is not being satisfied."
Visa restrictions mean people on student visas can generally work just 40 hours a fortnight.
The Council of International Students Australia has heard from international students so desperate for money they work cash-in-hand jobs for wages as low as $7 per hour.
Employers bending the rules sometimes threatened workers with deportation to prevent them from speaking out, Mr Mathilakath Madathil said.
"It's somewhere close to slavery or bonded labour," he said.
Unions ACT secretary Alex White said wage theft and sham contracting were two key areas of exploitation dealt with by the union.
“Basically, [students] cop the lower wages because there’s very few alternatives," Mr White said.
“My recommendation to any international student would be to join their union straight away and that would be the best thing they could do."
Mr White said he did not support allowing international students on student visas to work more than 20 hours per week, arguing students' time was better spent studying.
“International students wouldn’t need to work as many hours if their wages weren’t being stolen by dodgy employers and if we didn’t have dodgy real estate agents and landlords ripping off international students," he said.
The Council of International Students Australia will analyse the survey results with an aim to provide recommendations to the federal Education Department the Home Affairs Department.
The anonymous survey is available online.