Five people who came to New Zealand on student visas obtained by fraud have been found by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) compliance staff and are now in custody awaiting deportation.
A further 31 people have been interviewed and served with Deportation Liability Notices since the operation to locate students implicated in the fraud began last Wednesday.
The fraud was uncovered through sampling of student visa applications through INZ’s Beijing branch and consisted predominantly of fake qualifications and falsified bank statements.
INZ General Manager Peter Elms says that updated information shows that 246 people who fraudulently obtained a visa are currently in New Zealand.
A total of 74 are unlawful as their visas have expired and are liable for deportation.
The remaining 172 are on current but fraudulently obtained visas and may become liable for deportation depending on their individual circumstances.
Mr Elms says compliance staff are finding students implicated in the fraud every day and there have been some notable successes.
“Last week in a joint operation with Police in Christchurch we found two of the unlawful Chinese students,” Mr Elms says. “Last night a further eight students were found at a property in Blenheim and served with Deportation Liability Notices.”
Mr Elms says that none of the eight showed any understanding of English and there was evidence that a number of them had been working on a vineyard.
“This sort of incident sends a strong message to employers to check that prospective workers are legally entitled to work in New Zealand.
“We will be investigating any employer implicated in employing student visa holders not entitled to work and will take legal action if appropriate.”
Mr Elms is again urging anyone in this situation to contact Immigration New Zealand on 0508 558 855 to discuss their individual circumstances.
INZ has also started contacting parents of students in China to encourage their children to come forward or return home if they are already overstaying their visas.
“It’s important to note that, as opposed to anyone who departs voluntarily, anyone who is deported is unable to return to New Zealand for between two and five years.”
He says that the investigation into the fraud is expected to take several more weeks, but speculation that VFS Global Services in China is involved is completely wrong.
“The company is contracted by us to lodge and receipt visa applications in China but plays absolutely no part in deciding applications.
“I want to emphasise that only Immigration New Zealand staff can make decisions on visa applications.”
Mr Elms says that maintaining the integrity of New Zealand’s immigration system is of paramount importance and this type of visa fraud is taken very seriously.
Source: Immigration New Zealand.