30 Apr 2023

Recovery visa sold for more than $30,000 by unlicensed agents, immigration adviser says

1:00 pm on 30 April 2023
Work visa application form

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Immigration advisers are warning about the extent of New Zealand jobs that are being "sold" overseas to qualify migrants for visas.

Two accredited employers have been reported to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) which is carrying out checks on a sample of businesses.

The latest allegations concern agents allegedly charging for the six-month recovery visa, designed to provide workers and specialists to deal with the summer's extreme weather events.

INZ figures show a quarter of those visas were being declined or withdrawn.

Since it was announced in February, 1926 people have applied for the six-month visa.

Labourers were the most common role that has been approved with almost 500 migrants, followed by 91 commercial cleaners and 68 carpenters.

Three weeks into the programme only two applications had been declined and 166 approved.

But since then 436 have been rejected or withdrawn, out of 1549 that have been finalised.

Immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont last month spoke about widespread fraud in the Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme, with overseas agents charging unskilled migrants $40,000 to place them in New Zealand roles.

A screenshot from Facebook showing the six-month recovery visa being wrongly promoted as an open work visa for three years.

A screenshot from Facebook showing the six-month recovery visa being wrongly promoted as an open work visa for three years. Photo: Screenshot / Facebook

An Indian-based immigration adviser, who asked not to be named for fear of a backlash from other agents, said that was only the start.

"Even more shocking is the fact that the recovery visa is being sold as open work visas for over $30,000 by many unlicensed and unscrupulous agents in India and other countries. Many of these agents are also soliciting clients by blatant advertisements on social media.

"In six months' time, New Zealand will realise what a blunder it has been, although it was meant for people to help in rebuilding after the natural disasters, but it is a more complex can of worms."

One advert shows the recovery visa being promoted as a three-year work visa.

RNZ asked Immigration New Zealand why so many were being declined or withdrawn.

"Applications may be declined if they do not meet Recovery Visa immigration instructions," general manager Richard Owen said.

No further detail was provided, except to outline that the visa was intended for workers coming to New Zealand for a short period to assist with response to the extreme weather events, Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland floods by providing emergency response, immediate clean-up, assessing risk or loss or urgent infrastructure stabilisation or repair.

"There are a number of reasons why someone may choose to withdraw an application, such as a change in personal circumstances. Applicants are not required to provide a reason for withdrawing their applications

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