Education agents are being accused of pushing would-be migrants to apply for residency through the student visa pathway to get around the law. The Herald has been alerted to cases where applicants, who had wanted to apply under other immigration categories, were asked to become international students instead.
Under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act, anyone who gives immigration advice must be licensed - but lawyers, Citizens Advice Bureau staff and those providing immigration advice offshore about student visa applications are exempt.
A Chinese national, who gained residency last year, told the Herald he had wanted to apply as an investor migrant but was persuaded by an agent at a Beijing-based immigration agency to apply for a student visa instead. He claimed to have paid the agency - which has Auckland-based agents - $75,000 for an immigration package, which included becoming a student at a central Auckland school where he did not have to attend classes, a business diploma and a pay-your-own-way job offer.
The man, who is in his 30s, gained permanent residency last year and knows of at least three other "friends" who are "going through the process".
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The Immigration Advisers Authority, which administers the act, confirmed it has received complaints about education agents acting unlawfully as immigration advisers. It has issued warning letters, but did not have the resources to investigate further.
"Given the limited budget, authority resources must be concentrated on cases where there is credible evidence and there has been or is likely to be a significant degree of harm to consumers," said authority spokeswoman Maheesha Kottegoda.
"It is an offence for anyone offshore to give immigration advice on anything outside the student visa pathway," Ms Kottegoda said.
Migrating through the student visa pathway is popular choice for would-be migrants. Immigration says that over the past decade, one in five international students gained permanent residency within five years of being issued their first student visa.