Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Colleges stay suspended until new year

Foreign students left in limbo as Immigration Service considers appeals against deportation.

Aotearoa Tertiary Institute is one of the four suspended facilities. Photo / Natalie Slade
Aotearoa Tertiary Institute is one of the four suspended facilities. Photo / Natalie Slade

Immigration NZ will consider in the new year if it will prosecute four private training establishments found to be involved in an alleged illegal labour scam.

A joint investigation by the service and the Qualifications Authority (NZQA) found four PTEs to be "non-compliant with their obligations in respect to international students".

The National Institute of Students, EDENZ Colleges, Aotearoa Tertiary Institute and the NZ School of Business and Government have been suspended from applying for student visas until further notice.

"The suspension will not be lifted on any of the four PTEs until there is full compliance with their obligations under the Education Act 1989 and the Immigration Act 2009," said the acting head of Immigration NZ, Steven McGill.

"Prosecution action is considered on a case-by-case basis, and no decision is likely until the suspensions are reviewed in the new year."

Breaches include students studying less than the minimum 20 hours per week, misleading or poorly maintained attendance records and fee discrepancies.

The four institutions have a combined total of 842 international students, but the suspensions will only affect new or undecided visa applications.

Meanwhile, the number of Chinese students with fraudulent visas who are unlawfully in the country has increased to 162, from 74 in July.

Fifty-two others - also part of a group of 300 whose applications contained fake qualifications and falsified bank statements, remain in the country but their permits have not yet expired.

Mr McGill said one immigration agent might be implicated in the fraud and the agency had shared this information with the Chinese authorities. He would not disclose details about the agent.

"The issue of visas obtained fraudulently was confined to our Beijing office and locally employed staff," Mr McGill said.

"The investigation found that no New Zealand staff were implicated in the fraud; one locally engaged Chinese national has resigned."

Former business diploma student Roe Wang, 18, who has been served with a deportation liability notice, told investigators she did not know fraudulent documents had been used to support her application.

She has not been able to attend school since July, but is choosing to remain in New Zealand to appeal against her deportation orders.

"I am innocent, but if I leave the country now I will have a deportation black mark that may prevent me from getting a visa to study anywhere else in the world," Miss Wang said in Mandarin.

She said she had two other friends who were also in limbo because of the deportation notices.

"It is really wasting a lot of our time and costing a lot of money, but we really cannot do anything else without first clearing our names," she said.

Chiwi Immigration Services, an Auckland-based agency representing four other Chinese students who also face deportation, will be taking their appeals to the Immigration Minister.

Since the scam was uncovered in July, 31 students have left New Zealand and three have successfully had their deportation notices cancelled after making submissions to Immigration that they were not complicit in the fraud.

Immigration said deportation appeals were still being reviewed.

- NZ Herald

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