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Visa scam may have involved 1000 Filipino dairy workers

Up to 1000 Filipino dairy workers in New Zealand may have been part of a visa scam and it's got our dairy industry worried.

Farmers increasingly rely on migrant Filipino labour but the Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse, admits hundreds of these workers might be here illegally.

"A CV was provided that provided work experience that wasn't true or that it was grossly exaggerated to apply for a role of an assistant herd manager that avoided a labour test that would otherwise have been required," Mr Woodhouse told reporters.

Hundreds of Filipino workers have been employed illegally in the farming industry. Source: 1 NEWS

A Waikato woman, alleged to be the brains behind the scam, is charged with three fraud-related offences.

"The applicants were paying fees to her in the belief that that was the pathway for getting a visa here in New Zealand," Mr Woodhouse said.

Dairy farmers are worried about what it could mean for them.

"At the moment getting these quality Filipino workers in is filling a short-term gap," said Chris Lewis of Federated Farmers dairy board.

"And they're being good guys to work with. They turn up on time, they don't smoke, they don't drink, they're very polite."

There are 1700 Filipino workers on dairy farms in New Zealand.

A sample of 250 visa applications showed a massive 70 per cent of that sample are believed to be part of the scam.

Hopefully they'll be back on deck next week processing them - Chris Lewis of Federated Farmers dairy board

It was picked up in a Canterbury Immigration office where they noticed similarities in CVs.

Authorities believe it could be more widespread than the numbers quoted though. All visas issued to Filipino dairy workers in the last 12 months will now be reviewed.

"There's no evidence that any of the dairy farms themselves were complicit in this process. So I think that's quite reassuring," Mr Woodhouse said.

But visa problems and staff shortages might prompt drastic action on some farms.

"We're law abiding people. We like to see the law of our land upheld and proper process done," Mr Lewis said. 

"So yeah, I have to give credit to Immigration New Zealand for doing it and hopefully they'll be back on deck next week processing them within their required rules."

Authorities are now auditing farms around the Waikato, Canterbury and Southland.