A Malaysian man who overstayed his visa for 10 years had operated a construction business since 2006 and employed six fulltime workers and two subcontractors before he was tracked down by Immigration New Zealand.
Chang Yee Seng, a director of Reaplite Industries, faces deportation but will lodge a second appeal after having an earlier appeal turned down by former Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson.
Mr Chang will say he had paid taxes in excess of $100,000 annually and had created "sustained employment" for New Zealand residents and citizens. He registered his company six years ago with a fellow overstayer, and said he was surprised there was no need to prove he was lawfully in the country. His business partner has since obtained permanent residence after marrying a local.
Mr Chang arrived on a visitor visa in 2003 and claimed he became an overstayer after receiving a string of wrong immigration advice.
The Immigration Advisers Authority has confirmed Mr Chang's adviser is facing charges, including providing immigration advice without being licensed, and the matter is now before the Auckland District Court.
"The only reason I decided to stay was because I fell in love with this place, but didn't think things could have gotten so bad," Mr Chang said. "I never intended to break the law, but I was just unfortunate to have met the wrong people to help me with my immigration matters."
He said he was fighting to remain so that his employees, some of whom had worked for him for over five years, could keep their jobs.
Unimeg, a migrant workers' union, says deporting overstayers who are employers would result in "unemployment of innocent workers".
The Herald is aware of at least two other employers who face deportation. They include an Indian overstayer since 2008 running a labour contracting business and a Chinese overstayer who operated a food business for nearly six years.
Union spokesman Dennis Maga said it was "not right" that Immigration had an online tool, VisaView, to allow employers to check if their employees were entitled to work here, but nothing to check on the immigration status of employers.
The union wants an accreditation system introduced where all business owners must prove they could legally run the company before being allowed to employ staff.
An Immigration spokeswoman, Rachel Purdom, said the agency did not monitor the companies register and was not aware how many overstayers had registered businesses in New Zealand. However, it was a breach of immigration law for someone to work in New Zealand without a visa that allows the holder to work, and this includes operating a business or self employment.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said employing others was not a defence to breaching the terms of one's visa.
"It's mind-boggling that an overstayer would not take responsibility for their own actions and instead blame New Zealand agencies for not stopping them from deceiving innocent, legal workers."By Lincoln Tan Email Lincoln