Immigration New Zealand has acted against four private training establishments after an investigation into an alleged illegal labour scam involving international students.
Last month the Herald revealed that the schools were believed to have knowingly enrolled students, some with fraudulently obtained visas, who had arrived in New Zealand with the intention of working illegally.
Yesterday it was announced that after a joint operation by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) and Immigration New Zealand (INZ), action would be taken against four PTEs that had been found to be "non-compliant with their obligations in respect to international students".
"INZ will now suspend the processing of student visa applications for the four institutions for failing to comply with their obligations under the Education Act 1989 and the Immigration Act 2009.
"The suspensions will not be lifted until they are fully compliant," the agency said.
The four establishments are the National Institute of Studies, EDENZ Colleges Ltd, Aotearoa Tertiary Institute and the New Zealand School of Business and Government.
The suspension will only impact on new or undecided visa applications.
INZ general manager Peter Elms said the breaches were serious and included students studying for less than the minimum 20 hours a week, misleading or poorly maintained attendance records and fee discrepancies.
"It is concerning that these private training establishments have been operating in a manner that falls well below minimum standards and, in so doing, jeopardising the quality of the education provided to their international students," Mr Elms said.
"The actions of a handful of PTEs can have serious implications for the reputation of New Zealand as a quality education destination.
"We are determined to maintain the integrity of the export education industry and New Zealand's reputation as a quality destination and we owe it to the vast majority of high quality PTEs to take a firm stance on this issue."
NZQA issued compliance notices to all four PTEs.
"The actions of the four PTEs have undermined the integrity of New Zealand's export education industry, which has an enviable reputation and is worth around $2.7 billion a year to the economy," said NZQA's deputy chief executive, Tim Fowler.
"This action sends a strong message to the industry that these sorts of breaches will not be tolerated."