‘Widespread concerns’ over false visa documents

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“Widespread concerns” have been raised following the arrest of a woman over allegations involving the providing of false visa documents to Philippines nationals.

According to media reports, a Waikato woman was arrested on Tuesday this week over a suspected fraud involving visa applications for Filipinos.

The Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse, said that concerns have subsequently been raised about the impact of delays to legitimate visa applicants on New Zealand’s dairy industry.

“I am aware of concerns around delays for visa applications by Filipino workers,” he said.

“However as this investigation has progressed extra verification has been required, and this has resulted in delays in some cases.”

Woodhouse said he was aware that this could be detrimental to the dairy industry, and he was working with officials to limit the impact.

“Any fraud of our immigration system is a very serious matter and I am extremely concerned about the potential scale of the alleged fraud in this case,” Woodhouse said.

Peter Elms, assistant general manager at Immigration New Zealand, told The New Zealand Herald that authorities became aware of the potential issues with applications in February.

“Staff in our Christchurch office noticed discrepancies over qualifications and false claims of work experience,” he said.

The Immigration Department alleged that the woman – who will reportedly appear in court next week – used Kiwi employers’ details without their knowledge to secure work visas for Filipino nationals.

According to The Herald, the applicants never worked for the listed sponsors after arriving in New Zealand.

“After a short period a fresh application was submitted for a new employer. It appears that the actual employers were not aware that the work visas had originally been gained using false employer details,” Immigration said in a statement.

A spokesman reportedly revealed that the arrested woman faced charges of obtaining by deception, altering a document with intent to deceive, and using an altered document with intention to deceive.

All of these were in relation to providing false documents to support a work visa application.

“The investigation has been extensive,” he continued.

“INZ needed to gather all the relevant information for a legal case against this person and that has taken a considerable period of time because of the complexity of the case.”

As a consequence of this, Federated Farmers suggested that the dairy industry was undergoing a skills shortage.

The industry body said it was important INZ had taken “additional measures” to ensure visa documents were genuine.

“Federated Farmers is confident that the processing of visa applications will soon return to a normal pace and that with Government support New Zealand's dairy industry can train and attract skilled workers from within this country and overseas,” a spokesman told The Herald.

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