A Chinese builder who came to New Zealand on a fake passport has been sentenced to two years in jail for immigration fraud.

Chinese national Zi Xiang Lin, 49, has been living unlawfully in New Zealand since 2005, according to court documents.

He was sentenced at the Hamilton District Court on Wednesday under the Immigration Act 1987 relating to providing a false passport.

Lin entered the country from Fiji using a fake Hong Kong passport, and until March this year, Immigration New Zealand was unaware he was living here.

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He was found by INZ compliance officers on a Hamilton house building site on March 9. The officers were looking for another Chinese national who was also believed to be working unlawfully on the same site.

Lin had a licenced builders practitioners ID and NZ drivers licence in the name of Jiew Min Chong.

"He was located on a Hamilton residential building site and detained by INZ after he gave a false identity," the agency's assistant general manager Peter Devoy said.

"He subsequently provided INZ with information on his genuine identity. After the passport was recovered, INZ determined that the identity page had been tempered with."

Hong Kong authorities confirmed that the passport was reported lost in 2009, and that the photograph, name and date of birth had been altered.

Lin's 26-year-old daughter, Yan Lin, who holds a permanent residence visa, has been living in New Zealand since 2009 and is the director of two house construction companies operating in Hamilton and Auckland.

She assisted INZ in the recovery of the passport.

Lin refused to disclose his Hamilton place of residence or reveal any other detail of his time in New Zealand, other than being self employed and having worked on building sites for cash.

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Devoy added: "We will not tolerate anyone committing immigration fraud and today's sentence is a strong deterrent."