Investigation reveals extensive work visa abuse by employers in New Zealand. Immigration NZ revokes or suspends licenses of almost 200 employers. Migrants exploited and living in poor conditions prompt decisive action. Criminal charges, visa cancellations, and delayed review findings highlight the need for reform.
An ongoing investigation into work visa abuse in New Zealand has resulted in the revocation or suspension of nearly 200 employers' licenses to hire migrants. Immigration New Zealand (Immigration NZ) is currently scrutinising an additional 167 employers who hold licenses under the accredited employer work visa scheme. These actions come as a response to concerns raised in June of the previous year regarding the exploitation of migrant workers from India, China, and Bangladesh.
Migrants have reported paying exorbitant amounts of money for work visas, only to find themselves with little to no work. Shockingly, some workers were discovered living in overcrowded and unsanitary accommodations. These distressing incidents have prompted Immigration NZ to take decisive action against irresponsible employers.
Since the concerns were raised, 136 employers have had their accreditation revoked, and 51 employers have had their accreditation suspended. The investigations into accredited employers are ongoing, with a further 167 cases actively being scrutinized.
In November 2023, an Auckland-based bar and restaurant owner was arrested on charges of exploiting migrants. The charges, brought under section 351 of the 2009 Immigration Act, could result in a maximum penalty of seven years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $100,000. Additionally, an immigration adviser was arrested in October 2023 for providing false information, also carrying a potential maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
As part of the investigations, approximately 200 individuals who had been issued visas under the accredited employer work visa scheme but remained overseas had their visas cancelled. This action ensures that these individuals cannot enter New Zealand under false pretenses.
The Public Service Commission has undertaken a review of the accredited employer work visa scheme. Initially set to release its findings in December 2023, the report's publication has been delayed and is now expected to be released in February.