Immigration New Zealand has started investigating 23 private training establishments in Auckland that enrolled more than 230 students from China who arrived on fraudulent visas.
At least two of the schools are believed to have problems with "non-attendance, non-enrolment and poor documentation", the agency said yesterday.
Immigration NZ head Steve Stuart said: "In cases where providers are not meeting immigration or education requirements, Immigration works with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and can suspend visas."
An audit of 1800 student visa applications lodged in Beijing found 279 contained fake academic qualifications and falsified statements; 231 students are in New Zealand on these visas.
Several of the 36 students who have been tracked down by the agency were found to be working in a Blenheim vineyard and two others in Christchurch when they were meant to be attending English classes in Auckland.
The Herald understands at least 25 students have engaged New Zealand-based licensed immigration advisers to appeal against the deportation orders that have been served against them.
"We have received two submissions from students," Mr Stuart said, "and we have received queries from immigration advisers who have informed us they are considering ... lodging submissions or appeals on behalf of their clients against deportation liability."
A spokesman for the Minister of Immigration, Nathan Guy, said changes had been made to student profiling in Beijing as a result of the fraud.
"Applications are now being reviewed and allocated by senior staff within the branch," he said.
"A full investigation of the student visa fraud at the Beijing office is now under way."
The spokesman said Mr Guy had not been told in advance about the decision to relax risk-profiling procedures in Beijing and had asked for a full report on the issue.
An immigration adviser who intends to act for about 20 of the students said most were "young and naive" and were "victims" of unscrupulous education agents in China.