Non EU nationals are being charged up to £3,000 for work permits
Commercial agents are charging upwards of £3,000 to non-EU nationals who wish to work in Northern Ireland, the BBC has learned.
Three agents based in Belfast are exploiting a recent change in the legislation.
Sources within the Chinese community have voiced concerns that its members are being charged hundreds of pounds for work permit applications.
On average, a work permit can cost upwards of £3,000 and sometimes more.
Since April, all organisations which provide advice on immigration issues have to be registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner, the OISC.
As a result, hundreds of members of minority ethnic groups are turning to commercial agents and solicitors who are charging £250 an hour.
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster on Thursday, Les Allamby of the Law Centre in Northern Ireland said it was not illegal but a recent change in legislation was being exploited.
"These unscrupulous agents, and frankly unscrupulous solicitors, have moved in to fill the vacuum and this is a rip off," he said.
"It is an administration arrangement. You need to know a bit of law, but frankly beyond that it is like applying for your passport and you would not pay £250 an hour for someone to help you apply for your passport."
The government insists that vetting those who can provide advice has one aim, to ensure that the service provided is of the best standard.