Chinese student visas invalid
Immigration New Zealand staff discovered eight Chinese nationals with fraudulent student visas at a Blenheim property on Monday.
The Chinese nationals were found after an investigation was launched last week into a student visa scam run out of Immigration NZ's Beijing office involving 279 people.
Immigration NZ general manager Peter Elms said two staff and Blenheim police doorknocked at the house in daylight hours on Monday. They found 15 foreign nationals, including eight Chinese in their 20s, on fraudulent visas.
"It was not an over-the-top raid," Mr Elms said.
"It's about knocking on the door, introducing ourselves, gaining the confidence of the individuals and working to identify their status."
Judging by their clothing and equipment, at least some of the Chinese had been working on a vineyard that day, he said.
Yesterday, staff with an interpreter interviewed the Chinese who did not speak English. The Chinese might not have known they were in New Zealand illegally, Mr Elms said.
Staff had a good idea who owned the property at which they were living and would investigate any links to the residents' employment.
The Chinese were believed to have travelled from Auckland to Blenheim as a group, which suggested a degree of organisation behind their employment in Marlborough, Mr Elms said.
“This sort of incident sends a strong message to employers to check that prospective workers are legally entitled to work in New Zealand,” he said. “We will be investigating any employer implicated in employing student visa holders not entitled to work.”
The Chinese were co-operative and prepared to hand over identification documents, Mr Elms said.
They were served deportation notices, giving them up to 14 days to provide a good reason they should not have to return home or to make travel arrangements.
Last night, the Chinese were still at the property but were not allowed to work, he said.
Of 172 Chinese still in New Zealand under the student visa scam, 36 had been found since last Wednesday, including the eight in Blenheim, Mr Elms said.
Five whose visas were both fraudulent and expired were being held in custody, ready for deportation.
Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said it was good Immigration NZ had taken action to uncover illegal employment in vineyards. Vineyard owners should record the names of people working on their property every day and check their immigration status. "The responsibility lies with the property owner," he said. "Don't rely on what you are told."
Mr Elms said it was possible there were more Chinese on illegal student visas working in Marlborough. Anyone who suspects people of working illegally should contact Immigration NZ on 0508 558 855.
- The Mirror