[color=indigo:1e11a9a469][b:1e11a9a469]Row over 'easy' access to residency [/b:1e11a9a469][/color:1e11a9a469]
26 May 2006
By HAYDON DEWES

Overseas Immigration Service offices are again in the spotlight after allegations that parents of foreign students denied visas or residency here have got them easily overseas to avoid paying full tuition fees.

National's immigration spokesman Lockwood Smith told Parliament yesterday that a Korean father of two foreign fee-paying secondary school students was twice declined a work permit by immigration officials in Auckland, but was then able to travel back to Korea and be granted a work visa enabling him to work "for any employer" in "any position" ? despite being unable to speak English.

He also raised the case of a Malaysian couple with three children studying at the same school who he said gained residency through the Immigration Service's London office, despite the parents never living here or planning to live or work here. Both cases were raised with immigration officials by the school, which questioned whether corrupt practices overseas were allowing foreign students to escape paying full tuition fees of between $15,000 and $20,000 a year.

Answering questions on behalf of Immigration Minister David Cunliffe, Cabinet colleague Clayton Cosgrove said every application was treated on its merits. "People who cannot obtain a visa in New Zealand may obtain one offshore, if their circumstances have changed."

Mr Cunliffe had closed a loophole that allowed guardians of international students to use their children to gain work permits. But Dr Smith said it appeared not to be a loophole, but shonky or corrupt decisions made by overseas offices that were at fault in this case.

Immigration launched a review of practices in its overseas offices a year ago after it was claimed that cronies of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein were granted visas by a Bangkok office. Labour Department spokeswoman said it needed more information to start an investigation.