Immigration New Zealand staff are manually checking nearly 900 applications from Sri Lankan students which used a finance company now at the centre of a student visa scam, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says.
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is investigating the fraud involving Sri Lankan student applications.
INZ officials advised Lees-Galloway in March that fraudulent behaviour had been found in 88 pending applications, and 83 were declined, with a finance company at the centre of the fraud.
"Immigration NZ are going to manually review the 895 applications that came from Sri Lankan students through the Mumbai office in 2017. They're going to see which of those involved this particular finance company," Lees-Galloway said today.
Those that had would be flagged and if the visa-holder sought to have their visa extended, their case would be more closely scrutinised.
INZ had looked back at earlier applications but Lees-Galloway said the information confirming they had sufficient finances to support their application came from the finance company, which meant going back to the fraudulent finance company for the information.
"It's a pointless exercise and what INZ has done instead is to refuse applications that involve that finance company. They are blacklisted, they can no longer be involved in applications for visas, and to identify how many people are currently in New Zealand on visas that involved an application through that company."
National's immigration spokesman Michael Woodhouse said there could be thousands of applications approved where fraudulent documentation was supplied.
"Surely it is in the public interest to know how widespread the fraud is. Our immigration system relies in part on the honesty of the applicants, but also on targeting and eliminating fraud when it occurs," he said.
Lees-Galloway said he would have a better idea of how widespread the problem was when INZ had completed its review.
"This is something that has appeared before, that there have been issues with this type of behaviour before. It is something INZ is very aware of."
He said people who were not able to support themselves financially in New Zealand ended up being exploited, by employers or others.
"That is why we have to have a system with integrity that ensures people do have the means to support themselves."