An Immigration New Zealand investigation has found that a significant number of fake documents are being used by Indian education agents in order to get students in to New Zealand.
Immigration advice is offered to students by the education agents who also prepare student visas for those looking to study in the country.
According to documents that were released under the Official Information Act, 44 agents were involved in the fraud just in March of this year. A total of 57 agents have been identified as using fraudulent methods that include the use of fake documents for nearly all of their applicants.
Immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont said the majority of the agents falsified bank documents in order to make it appear as though an applicant’s family had the ability to access funds that would allow them to pay school fees. While fraud has always existed within the student visa market, McClymont said that it has gotten worse in recent years, with some students claiming to be victims.
Statistics New Zealand report 9,800 people arriving in the country from India on student visas this year. In an effort to put a stop to the fraud, Immigration New Zealand has created new standard operating procedures.
“The new [procedures] has been highly effective with 145 such cases identified as at 11 June, along with 151 cases involving other types of fraud. These applications have been declined,” said general manager Stephen Dunstan.
He went on to say that those applications that brought up concerns that fraudulent methods may have been used were further investigated, with the students involved being notified and deported when necessary.
McClymont is pushing for the government to make amendments to the Immigration Advisors Licensing Act that requires overseas education agents to become licensed and regulated.
However, Christine Clark, chairwoman of the Independent Tertiary Education New Zealand board, said that regulations would come with a major backlash, writes Erin Speedy for Stuff.
“If we start putting compliance on the agents, then all the agent’s going to do is say New Zealand’s too hard and we’re going to send students to Australia and Canada.”
While the majority of independent organizations do check the credibility of agents and try not to work with those who engage in fraudulent activity, it is not always easy to pick those agents out.
“We’re told that it’s our responsibility to be working with good agents but some of those agents marked as fraudulent are actually licensed agents,” said Clark.
Meanwhile, NZ First leader Winston Peters has accused the country of exploiting international students, saying the government is taking advantage of them by forcing them to take positions for low wages by promising that they will be able to stay in the country.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce has replied to the accusations by calling it “typical Winston exaggeration” that he would expect from 40 years of standing against immigration.
Joyce added that in total, there are close to 125,000 students helping the New Zealand economy, adding that they simply need to “sort out” the situation whenever they come across an agent who does not do things properly.