Immigration New Zealand believes Indian business owners are deliberately targeting Indian foreign students as cheap labour and charging them thousands of dollars for jobs that lead to residence.
Documents obtained under the Official Information Act say the practice is an established business model, with some businesses developing relationships with private tertiary institutions in order to get access to students.
“It is likely there are Indian business owners in New Zealand deliberately creating connections with PTEs [private training establishments]. It is likely that the purpose of this is to recruit students to work at their businesses, with the end goal being to sell jobs to the students when they are ready to apply for work and residence visas,” a July 2016 report said.
A May 2016 report outlined systematic offending by various owners of stores in a particular franchise.
The names of the owners and of the stores were redacted from the document.
The report said Immigration received allegations that eight stores were involved in providing false information for visa applications, job selling, unlawful working and exploitative employment practices.
It said it was likely the offending was organised and co-ordinated between the stores and that similar offending was happening at other companies and businesses owned by the franchise owners.
“The issues occurring at [name redacted] are one facet of a larger issue regarding immigration and labour related offending at franchises and small businesses owned by Indian nationals,” the report said.
The document described a surprise visit to one of the stores in April last year to investigate apparently unlawful practices such as non-payment of tax for some workers and the presence of “volunteer workers”.
It said the audit visit prompted a “scramble” among the store’s six staff, with five leaving the site.
The store’s manager agreed there were problems, but pleaded to be given a warning and “said that he would give whatever he wanted to make the issue disappear”.
$5-an-hour jobs and $20,000 fees for employment
Former staff at an Auckland tertiary institute are believed to have helped students work in breach of their study visas and were complicit in their exploitation, Immigration New Zealand documents also said.
The documents dated April this year and April and July last year showed a former employee at the institute was believed to be instrumental in organising the offending and the institution was no longer under suspicion.
The man now worked at another private institution where the agency believed immigration offending was likely occurring.
The documents alleged the man was “at the centre of an established family-based network that involves breaches of numerous immigration and labour laws”.
They said he facilitated the employment of students at businesses owned by his relations.
“Findings indicated [name redacted] was collaborating with education agents in India to provide a package to Indian students. This included entrance to New Zealand via a student visa, study at [name redacted by RNZ for legal reasons], work at his businesses, and obtain a residence visa through employment at his businesses which comprised a petrol station, sports bars, fast food chains and ICT sales and service businesses,” one of the documents said.
“Staff at [name redacted] businesses were likely exploited and paid premiums for their job offers.”
The document said a former student employed at one of the businesses told the Labour Inspectorate that he paid $20,000 for his job.
The documents said Immigration was tipped off in April this year that the institute was previously involved in transporting its Diploma of Business students to work five days a week on Te Puke kiwifruit orchards where they were paid $5 an hour.