14 January 2013

New Zealand immigration authorities warn Christchurch rebuild employers

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Employers hiring foreign workers for the rebuild operation in Christchurch have been warned by Immigration New Zealand that any potential employees' immigration status is their responsibility.

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INZ say it an employer's responsibility to ensure employees have the right to work in New Zealand.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) said employers would be held responsible if any employee is found working without the proper New Zealand visa, even if the employer is unaware.

The rebuild operation in Christchurch is still to begin in earnest after the earthquake which razed large parts of the city in February 2011 and triggered large exodus of residents whose homes or places of work were damaged in the disaster.

The city's depleted workforce has struggled to cope with the demands of the recovery operation and employers have since turned abroad to find skilled workers capable of assisting in the operation. However, recruitment agencies have claimed this has left the city wide open for immigration scams to take root.

While the number of visa overstayers and other illegal immigrants is difficult to gauge by definition, INZ estimate it could be as high as 15,000 and with plenty of opportunity in offer in the Canterbury region, it is to be expected that many will seek temporary employment there.

In order to combat this threat, INZ have said they will be conducting random site inspections throughout the year and unless an employer could prove they had taken 'reasonable steps' to ensure any foreign employees had the right to be working, they would face punishment.

"The onus is on [the employer] to make sure workers working for them are legally entitled to be working in New Zealand," said an INZ spokesperson.

The agency urged employers to check the passports of potential employees to be sure of their immigration status; employers can also use INZ's VisaView service to check status.

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy that specialises in helping people apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.

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