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Immigration NZ reviewing 800 SriLankan student visas

Immigration NZ is being forced to review more than 800 student visas after uncovering a scam operating out of Sri Lanka.

It found students applying to come here would use a finance company willing to claim they had enough money to support themselves.

New Zealand’s a magnet for sub-continent students wanting a better education, but from time to time, illegal means are used to get here.

Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway says it’s something “Immigration NZ has looked down on”, but adds “people will always try to test the system.”

It was revealed in January that Immigration NZ had discovered a scam operating out of Sri Lanka.

A briefing to the Minister in March, said: “INZ’s Mumbai office has uncovered what appears to be organised fraud in Sri Lanka, following an anonymous Crime stoppers tip-off.”

It found a Sri Lankan company was fraudulently creating documents that helped students meet financial eligibility criteria.

At the time the fraud was uncovered, there were 88 on-hand applications from Sri Lankan nationals that featured documentation from the unnamed company.

Mr Lees-Galloway says this shows that Immigration NZ is capable of detecting this kind of fraud – but despite the scam being uncovered, it’s likely more students are here who shouldn’t be.

That’s raised questions over how robust the system really is.

Leading immigration lawyer Tuariki Delamere says the visa process isn’t up to standard, and hasn’t been for years. He’s hopeful the new government will bring about change.

“Let’s be honest here, Mr Galloway, go and fix up the mess created by Michael Woodhouse,” Mr Delamere says.

Michael Woodhouse says when he was Immigration Minister, he acted every time he was alerted to fraudulent behaviour and won’t take the blame for this.

Iain Lees-Galloway says officials are now reviewing the more than 800 Sri Lankan students’ visas issued last year, and will act if it needs to.

Of those applicants, 83 didn’t respond to Immigration NZ’s concerns. Those 83 and their applications were declined based on not meeting funds requirements.

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