25 October 2012

New Zealand immigration authorities to clamp down on migrant worker abuse

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Immigration New Zealand has said it is considering legal action on a local company who forced a migrant worker to pay her own wages to support her New Zealand visa application, in a case officials are saying is becoming all too common.

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Immigration New Zealand say they will not tolerate the exploitation of migrant workers.

Chinese national Jingxin Tian claims South Pacific Ltd, an Auckland based confectionary distributor, made her pay over NZ$33,000 (£17,000) in exchange for sponsoring her New Zealand visa application.

The Employment Relations Authority has since ordered South Pacific Ltd to pay NZ$74,000 (£37,750) in penalties and repayments to Miss Tian for breaching statutory obligations and the Wages Protection Act.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is now investigating whether South Pacific Ltd director Catherine Guo also breached the Immigration Act, an offence which carries up to seven years in prison and a fine of NZ$100,000 (£51,000).

"Immigration will not tolerate employers who exploit migrant labour for their own commercial advantage," said Peter Elms, general manager of intelligence, risk and integrity at INZ.

"We will take swift action against those who are implicated in such behaviour.

"Immigration takes exploitation of migrant workers extremely seriously and will take whatever action that is appropriate."

One employment advocate with the Employment Disputes Services says the practice of extorting migrant workers in exchange for sponsorship is not uncommon; May Moncur says approximately 60 such cases have been reported in the past two years alone.

"Migrants on temporary visas often just accept the terms and conditions laid down by the employers because they want to get a permanent visa and many just don't know their rights," said Ms Moncur.

"Official complaints against these employers are also rare because the migrants are worried about losing their visas, getting deported and having other implications in terms of their immigration status."

Jenny Espiner, visa processing manager at the New Zealand Visa Bureau, says it's essential that anyone on a New Zealand visa is aware of their rights and lines of assistance they can seek if they are in doubt.

"Just because you are a migrant worker, that does not mean you should just blindly accept terms or conditions as they are handed to you, especially if they involve you handing over more money," said Ms Espiner.

"If you are ever in doubt, consult a certified immigration adviser first."


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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