Immigration New Zealand is to use a computer-generated system to allocate applications to case officers to cut down the possibility of fraud.

A source has told the Herald that four locally engaged Chinese staff at the agency's Beijing branch had been linked to a scam in which at least 279 fraudulent student visas have been issued in the past year, but Immigration yesterday refused to confirm this.

The agency employs 44 local Chinese staff in Beijing, who carry out the same duties as immigration officers in New Zealand.

"At the moment, the allocation of cases is manually done in all branches, said Immigration head Steve Stuart.


"The new Immigration global management system will give us the ability to allocate work either automatically or manually, whichever is the most appropriate."

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said "one or two Chinese nationals" working for the agency might have been involved in the fraud, but it had not been proven.

Of the 231 fraudulent students who are in New Zealand, 60 are unlawful because their visas had expired.

Twenty education providers, all in the Auckland area, have been identified as having enrolled the Chinese students involved in the fraud.

Immigration is urging students implicated in the fraud to come forward, or face deportation and a possible five-year ban from New Zealand.