Chinese students fraudulently enrolled in Auckland schools have been found working on a vineyard in Blenheim.
Immigration New Zealand yesterday found eight students who are among a group of 231 Chinese nationals who came to New Zealand on student visas obtained fraudulently.
The agency's general manager, Peter Elms, said the eight students found in Blenheim showed no understanding of English and it appeared some had been working at a vineyard.
"We will be investigating any employer implicated in employing student visa-holders not entitled to work and will take legal action if appropriate," said Mr Elms.
A random sampling of 1800 student visa applications lodged in Beijing found 279 involved fraud, including fake qualifications and falsified bank statements.
The agency has found 36 fraudulent students, including two in Christchurch.
Of the remaining 195, the visas of 74 had expired, making them unlawful in New Zealand, and agency officers have started to contact their parents in China to encourage the students to come forward or return home.
Five are now in custody awaiting deportation, and 31 have been served with deportation liability notices.
"It's important to note that anyone who is deported is unable to return to New Zealand for between two and five years," Mr Elms said.
Investigations are being made to determine whether Chinese staff employed by the agency are involved in the scam.
Two education agents in China are believed to be behind the fraud, and Mr Elms said there was no evidence that the 20 Auckland education providers that enrolled the students were involved in the scam.
The fraud has renewed calls for tightening visa processes and licensing education agents, who are exempt under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act.
Labour's export education spokesman, Raymond Huo, said Immigration NZ should not accept applications from unaccredited agents, and he would support a licensing regime for student visa advisers.
He said the reputation of New Zealand's export education sector had nose-dived in recent years, and was being described as "ghetto education" and a "dumping ground" by some in Asia.