27 Jun 2018

Students held responsible for false info on visa applications

8:56 pm on 27 June 2018

An Auckland lawyer is disappointed the Ombudsman has agreed that Immigration NZ can hold Indian students responsible for false financial information in their study visa applications.

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Photo: 123rf

Alastair McClymont complained to the Ombudsman on behalf of 26 Indian students who were denied further visas or threatened with deportation because of fraud they said was committed without their knowledge by their education agents.

The students were among hundreds affected by the problem, which was discovered in 2016 and prompted Immigration New Zealand to check the study visa applications of many students already in the country.

Mr McClymont said some Indian education agents had used false information without the students' knowledge because it was quicker than using real documents.

"A lot of these students who have arrived have discovered that fraudulent, false information was submitted by the agent. Their original, genuine documentation was discarded and now they are having visas declined, they're being deported and now the Ombudsman has concluded that they have not right of appeal, review or consideration, they just have to suck it up."

Mr McClymont said students affected by the problem had returned to India or remained in New Zealand illegally.

The complaint to the Ombudsman centred on Immigration NZ's decision that the students were of adverse character because of the fraudulent information in their visa applications, and were therefore ineligible for further visas or liable for deportation.

In his decision, Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier said it was reasonable for Immigration to question the character of people whose visa applications contained false information.

"Overall, I agree with INZ's analysis of the legislation that the provision of incorrect information would be 'sufficient reason' to make a temporary class visa holder liable for deportation under section 157 of the Act, irrespective of intent and without any need to question or determine character."

Judge Boshier said Immigration New Zealand had offered to consider new visa applications by three of the complainants and to take the cases of seven others to the Associate Minister of Immigration for reconsideration.

He said his "investigation identified some concerns about the level of analysis undertaken by immigration officers before declining applications on character grounds".

"It has also highlighted that the character instructions are not clear and there is a variance of practice amongst immigration officers," he said in the decision.

Judge Boshier said Immigration NZ had agreed to clarify its instructions and would also audit the cases of 213 Indian nationals who had study visas but were declined a subsequent visa on character grounds.

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