Immigration officers being recruited here and sent to work for Immigration New Zealand offshore are being paid as low as $4 an hour.

The agency, which is clamping down on employers here paying below the minimum wage, is being accused of double standards and attempting to skirt employment rules.

One advertisement placed on for an immigration officer to be based in Tonga listed the starting salary to be Tonga Pa'anga (TOP) 13,488, or NZ$8458 - working out to about $4 an hour.

June Ranson, chair of the New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment, said this was "exploitation" and "totally double standard".


But INZ emphatically denies the allegation it is trying to get around minimum wage laws by sending locally recruited staff offshore.

With visa applications now being lodged online, a high volume of processing is being done by offshore staff who are paid a fraction of the $45,000 New Zealand-based officers get.

"Immigration New Zealand are looking for an immigration officer who operates with the highest level of integrity, an has energy an determination to achieve results," the advertisement said.

"Our immigration officer will need to work collaboratively and positively with all our officers."

The advertisement also states that the successful candidate will have to bear relocation and accommodation costs.

Ranson said the agency's offshore staff lacked training and the ability to communicate with immigration advisers and lawyers here.

Staff recruited locally did have a better understanding of NZ life, employment, business and would provide consistency of approach in processing applications, she said.

"New Zealanders (who are) recruited, trained and sent offshore should be paid the same as their NZ counterpart, plus cost of living and adjustments," Ranson added.


About 560 of INZ's 1250 immigration officers are based offshore, and do basically the same work as those based here.

The agency did not keep statistics on where offshore officers were originally recruited, but said anecdotally, the majority would be recruited from local offshore locations.

K3 Legal employment lawyer Joy Yan said without specific details, it was difficult to say if INZ was in breach of employment law.

"Whether New Zealand minimum employment entitlements, such as minimum wage apply to cross-border employment relationships turn on facts include, but not limited to, who is the employer, where the employee is based, what is the parties' choice of governing jurisdiction and what is the employment's connection with foreign law," Yan said.

"Without knowing the specific facts, one is unable to say that New Zealand minimum entitlements are applicable."

INZ Assistant general manager Geoff Scott said the agency always ran a "robust recruitment process" when staff were needed for its offshore offices.


"Immigration New Zealand totally refutes the allegation that it is skirting employment or minimum wage laws by recruiting staff locally and then getting them to work offshore," Scott said.

"Offshore vacancies are advertised in the local market to ensure that INZ gets the best possible candidate."

Scott said it was "standard practice" that offshore staff were paid the appropriate market rate wherever they were located.

"Salaries for offshore officers are based on local market rates and currencies, not the New Zealand dollar," he said.

"The pay rates in the Pacific tend to be among the lowest, which reflects the lower living costs and local market rates."

Scott said that in some offshore locations, including London, Washington, Dubai and Hong Kong, officers were paid higher than in New Zealand.


"It would be inappropriate to apply New Zealand economic conditions, market data and legislative requirements when determining the remuneration rates payable in other countries," he added.