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Top 8 reasons why Immigration New Zealand visa officers are interested in your personal bank accounts

Immigration New Zealand visa officers are asking for personal bank details from visa applicants. Is it even legal? Can they do so? What are they trying to achieve? Do You have any options or do you just have to share all of your bank statements with them? What are the reasons behind such requests? What are some of the common pitfalls and mistakes which most migrants make? Here are the top 8 problems which you should avoid:

1. Sharing money among friends and flatmates:

If you are a migrant in the age group of 25 years -32 years old, it is likely that you may have lived as a flatmate in New Zealand for at least a few months. It is very common among flatmates to share house expenses, groceries, bills etc. We have seen that many migrants have a huge number of transactions with their friends and flatmates. At times, to some visa officers, these transactions may appear suspicious as you may not have kept a receipt or a log for each transaction. You may not have entered a full description for each transaction in the bank statement. Especially if these transactions are for a time period 2-4 years ago, you may not even remember what the reason was and who was the person. You may also be no longer in touch with those friends and flatmates if they have left New Zealand or moved cities. You should consult with a Licensed New Zealand Immigration Adviser if you think that you may be in this situation.

Risks:

  • If you were on a student visa at the time of transactions, your visa officer may challenge that possibly you were working illegally (cash jobs) and any such cash deposits could be a cash payment you received for doing some work. This could further mean that you may have breached your part-time work limits of 20 hours per week.
  • If you were on a work visa for a particular employer at the time of transactions, your visa officer may challenge a possibility that you worked outside of your allowed work rights and thus may have breached your visa conditions.

2. Helping a friend to show funds to Immigration New Zealand for getting a visa

This is probably the most common scenario, where many migrants borrow money from their friends to show that they have sufficient funds when they apply for a Post Study Open work visa, a Student Visa, Partner of a student visa, or a Visitor visa.

Risks:

  • If you are the person who borrowed the money to meet the policy requirements and later you returned that money to your friend after your visa was approved, then you could be potentially in trouble. Your visa officer may challenge you that you have provided misleading information to Immigration New Zealand and that you claimed that you have access to funds but those funds were not genuinely available to you. If this happens, you may find yourself in a situation where any further visa may be denied on character grounds, unless a character waiver is granted.
  • If you are that friend who lent money to a friend applying for a visa, then you have to be careful with your own timelines. If this is closer to the point where you obtained a job offer, your visa officer may start suspecting if you made a payment to acquire a job offer. It is important to note that the onus is on the applicant to prove that the concerns raised are incorrect. So you may not have actually paid for a job etc. but if you are unable to prove to INZ you could still face character concerns.

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3. Sending money overseas through unregistered money transfer agents

This is also a very common problem. Many of our clients send funds overseas to their families in countries like India, China, Nepal, Germany, Russia, England, Bangladesh. We have noticed a growing trend of sending money to many Asian countries especially India and China where the agent requests money in someone’s local New Zealand bank account and delivers cash to the receiver overseas. You may be one of such migrants who thinks this is an easy and economical method for sending money to your loved ones but there could be serious repercussions for this. Usually, such agents do not give any receipts and you cannot prove that the money was actually delivered to your family. This is a very dangerous situation to be in. It is recommended that you consult your Immigration Adviser before you make any such transactions, otherwise it may be very difficult for you to justify your situation to Immigration New Zealand.

Risks: 

  • You may be suspected to be involved in a money laundering racket.
  • You may be challenged to have paid this amount indirectly to your employer in order to obtain a job or a salary increase. With more and more migrants being under the pressure of finding a higher salary job which would allow them to apply for their three-year work visa or a residence visa, this is a common scenario for which visa officers are extremely vigilant.

4. Frequent transactions in a city other than the one mentioned on the visa

Some work visas have a city or geographical area mentioned on the visa label. If your bank statement has too many and too frequent transactions in a city other than the city mentioned on your work visa, then it is possible that your visa officer would be interested in finding out reasons.

Risks: 

  • You are at the risk of being accused of having breached your visa conditions. You either didn’t work at all or you worked in a location where you are not allowed to work as per your visa conditions. Either way, you may have breached your visa conditions and thus you may not be able to meet character requirements for being granted a further visa.
  • Your employer may have coerced you to work in a location where you were not allowed to work and thus, there may have been a breach of employment law on part of your employer. Here is a link where you can read about your rights as an employee.

5. Lower than usual spending out of your bank accounts

Immigration New Zealand states that a person would require a minimum of $1k NZD per month for visitors and a minimum of $1250 NZD per month for students (or $15k per year) to cover their living and maintenance cost in New Zealand. Based on the city you live in, your visa officer may compare and analyze your spending trends to establish if you have been spending consistently.

Risks: 

  • If you have been not spending enough, visa officer may suspect that perhaps you have an undisclosed source of income which provides you with cash which you do not deposit in your bank account and in turn use for your day to day living cost. If this is the case, you may have breached your visa conditions.

6. Higher than usual spending out of your bank accounts

Similarly, if your spending has suddenly increased, or you made some large transactions, then it would be considered as a suspicious transaction.

Risks:

  • If your spend has increased suddenly, then visa officer will evaluate if it appears to be a case where you could have taken consistent amounts of cash-outs at supermarkets, gas stations or ATMS in order to pay a premium to an employer in lieu of a job offer or an increased salary.

7. Inconsistent income compared with IRD summary of earnings

Immigration New Zealand is also likely to compare your IRD summary of earnings with your bank statements.

Risks:

  • It is possible that your employer has not been paying your PAYE to IRD on time, or may not have paid you your salary on time. This would mean that the employer may not be compliant with New Zealand employment law and thus this could have an impact on your further visa applications with the same employer.
  • Your visa officer will also investigate if you have actually received the salary as per your individual employment law agreement. If there are any discrepancies, then you and your employer both may have to justify the reasons.

8. Being on a work visa but not in employment

It is also possible that you were granted a work visa but then lost your job. You have an obligation to inform Immigration New Zealand if this happens to you. If you do not inform Immigration New Zealand and remain in the country, then you are in breach of your visa conditions.

Risks: 

  • Your visa officer will investigate if you have been in employment as per your visa conditions. Your bank statement will show clearly if you have not been working and earning a regular salary in coherence with your IRD summary of earnings report.

Better safe than sorry

We recommend that you consult a Licensed Immigration Adviser throughout your immigration journey in New Zealand until you become a New Zealand citizen. Whenever you are in doubt, it is good to consult a professional who has a holistic understand of various immigration laws and regulations. It is good to know than to repent.

Author: Malkiat Singh, IAA: 201400142

Malkiat Singh, also known as the Chief Migrant Mentor of New Zealand is a senior Immigration Adviser at Carmento.

Immigration Advice

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