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Tongan visa scam condemned as 'despicable'

Media release
25 August 2011

The Immigration Advisers Authority has condemned the sale of bogus visas by supposed religious ministers as ‘despicable’.

Fraudsters reportedly won the trust of Tongans in South Auckland by posing as doorstep missionaries before inviting them to buy fake residence visas for $290 each.

Others were invited to buy visas at meetings and residential addresses.

“This is a despicable scam preying on vulnerable members of the Tongan community under the guise of religion,” says Immigration Advisers Authority Registrar Barry Smedts.

 “We urge everyone seeking immigration advice to check our website for a complete list of licensed professionals.”

It is illegal for anyone to give immigration advice unless they are a licensed immigration adviser or other type of exempt person such as a practising lawyer or CAB adviser.

The Authority exists to protect consumers and, where appropriate, prosecute those giving advice unlawfully.

It has no power to issue visas, give immigration advice or deport overstayers and remains independent of Immigration New Zealand.

“We’re not interested in peoples’ immigration status — we’re interested in stamping out illegal operators and protecting migrants,” says Mr Smedts.

To report any immigration scam contact the Immigration Advisers Authority by calling 0508 422 422 or emailing info@iaa.govt.nz.

All information will be treated in strict confidence.

Notes to editor

The Immigration Advisers Authority was set up to promote and protect the interests of people receiving New Zealand immigration advice.

We do this by:

Under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 anyone giving immigration advice must have a licence unless they are exempt. Exempt people include lawyers with a current New Zealand practising certificate and Citizens Advice Bureaux staff among others.

The Authority is independent of Immigration New Zealand and cannot give immigration advice or influence a visa application.