Thursday 26 July 2012

Fraudulent visas: de facto and de jure

Suppose that you want to come to live in New Zealand. You're young. You don't meet the criteria for a working visa. And you haven't quite the qualifications for a student visa. What happens? At least according to the Herald, you falsify your qualifications, come to New Zealand on a student visa, sign up with an education provider that doesn't look too closely at your qualifications and go and get a job at an orchard or a fish and chips shop.

That's de jure fraud. The documents used to get the visa were fraudulent.

Imagine another hypothetical situation. Something that cannot happen at Canterbury, at least not for very long, because we have progression standards where any student failing to maintain some minimal GPA is thrown out of the University. Consequently, anybody wishing to take this hypothetical path chooses a university that does not have progression standards.

Consider the case of an international student who gets a visa and enrols at a New Zealand university but who never shows up for lecture, never shows up for tutorial, never completes any piece of assessment, and never shows up for the exams. The student pays international fees but is, as far as the lecturer is concerned, a ghost. The high international fees paid go to cross-subsidize the education of those students who do attend classes.

You can pretty easily make the case that the whole deal is highly beneficial to everybody involved. The parents get to pretend that their kid has failed out of an international school because of cultural or language problems (instead of having the kid enrol in a known-to-be second or third tier school in systems with tight entrance standards), the kid gets a working holiday, and there's a massive cross-subsidy to real international students and to domestic students. But you can also pretty easily make the case that it's a de facto fraud on the spirit of the student visa.

Maybe somebody who falsifies a document to get a student visa is more likely to be dishonest on other margins and consequently is worth chasing after. But is it really that much worse than falsifying the spirit of the visa application by enrolling at a New Zealand university but never attending lectures and never submitting assignments?

I'm not sure how many ghost students the other New Zealand universities are getting. Before we had progression standards, they weren't exactly uncommon on my class lists. If we want to keep the cost to domestic students down, let's hope Immigration New Zealand sticks with the de facto cases.

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