Twelve foreign nationals who have applied to study or work here are under investigation over fears that they're coming here to make weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Newshub reported.

These international students, who are being investigated by Immigration New Zealand, are from countries that have not signed Nuclear Proliferation Treaties or have access to WMDs.

Seven students were denied visas over concerns their study could contribute to a WMD programme.

All 12 are from nations that have not signed special treaties which aim to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, such as India, Pakistan, Israel and South Sudan.

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But they could have also come from countries that have WMDs or WMD programmes like North Korea, China, France, Russia, the UK and the US.

Paul Buchanan, 36th Parallel Assessments Director said New Zealand was seen as a target because our security wasn't as robust as other countries up until recently.

"By coming here they get an equally good quality education, but they don't raise the attention of security authorities in the Northern Hemisphere," Buchanan told Newshub.

But Professor Kevin Clements from Otago University said most information on how to build WMDs can be found on the internet.

"If you were really interested in developing weapons of mass destruction, you wouldn't come to New Zealand," Clements said.

He expressed concerns that applicants from certain countries were being discriminated against.

INZ said the applicant's country of origin, their occupation and associations were among the factors it considers when making decisions about who to investigate.

Documents from the Immigration Profiling Branch revealed that officials look at the applicant's CV and background information, a list of all addresses around the world where the applicant has lived, PHD research proposal and why NZ has been chosen for their studies.