200 Indian students visas being reviewed over Ombudsman complaint

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is reviewing more than 200 Indian student visa applications after the Ombudsman criticised some of its decision-making processes.

It follows the deportation of a group of students after their offshore agents used fake documents to get them into the country. 

Student Vikram Salaria's quest to study and settle in New Zealand has been met with heartbreak. His school was recently shut over quality issues, and last year his wife and daughter were among those deported after seeking refuge at a church. 

"It's the same like criminals, yes. We didn't do anything... haven't done anything," he told Newshub. 

He says unscrupulous agents faked information in his wife's application - without her knowledge. And the Ombudsman "identified some concerns about the level of analysis undertaken by immigration officers before declining applications on character grounds".

However he didn't disagree with the decision to have her deported.

"The Ombudsman has criticized INZ for their processes, their inconsistency," says immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont. 

Immigration Minister Iain-Lees Galloway says overwhelmingly, the Ombudsman "has found that INZ acted appropriately, but where shortcomings have been identified, INZ have indicated that they will take steps to rectify that."

Part of that will involve an audit of 213 cases. Mr Salaria's wife's case will also be looked at. 

"I talked with her and she is very hopeful that she can come back over here," says Mr Salaria.

But there's no certainty about whether that's likely or not. Mr Galloway says he wants to look at the report and consider what the options are. 

Mr McClymont made the complaint, and says the decision is encouraging. But some aspects trouble him because the Ombudsman found false information is a deportable violation - even if it was the agent who lied, rather than the student. 

"The Ombusman is saying that after signing that form, the student is solely responsible for everything," he says.

Mr McClymont adds that this could lead to fewer students reporting irregularities in their applications, as they'll know it'll lead to deportation.

INZ says it's still working out the scope of its audit and will report back in four months.