Samoan pastor Faaofo Fomai and Everlasting Gospel Church have been sentenced in Hastings District Court after earlier being convicted of four charges of providing false or misleading information to an immigration office, Immigration New Zealand says.
Mr Fomai was sentenced to six months' home detention and the church was fined $2,000.
In 2015 Mr Fomai, on behalf of the Church, offered work to Uasi Siatulau as a youth pastor and agreed to sponsor a work visa as a religious worker. Mr Fomai undertook and agreed that Mr Siatulau and his dependent children would have financial support and suitable accommodation. This undertaking was given even though Mr Fomai and his Church knew that it could not afford to employ Mr Siatulau.
Mr Siatulau and his partner were both approved work visas after Mr Fomai and the Church agreed Mr Siatulau would be paid between $1,350 and $1,400 a fortnight and they duly came to New Zealand with their four children.
The family was accommodated at Mr Fomai’s home but they were never paid and Mr Siatulau undertook unlawful seasonal work in the local orchards so he could support his family. Mr Siatulau subsequently left Mr Fomai’s house and an application for a visa to work at a horticultural contractor was declined.
In June 2016 Mr Siatulau was served with a deportation liability notice as he was in breach of his visa conditions and at that point the offending by Faaofo Fomai and Everlasting Gospel Church came to light. Mr Siatulau and his family were deported in April this year after an unsuccessful appeal to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal.
Immigration New Zealand Assistant General Manager Peter Devoy says the prosecution shows INZ takes attempts to mislead it seriously.
“This sentence sends a clear message to employers that there can be consequences for providing false and misleading information to immigration officers and bringing people to work in New Zealand under false pretences," he says.