Gill Bonnett, Reporter
Immigration advisers and lawyers are describing a climate of fear where they feel targeted for speaking out, with alerts being put on their records after they make complaints.
Immigration to New Zealand. Photo: RNZ
RNZ has seen redacted files belonging to two licenced immigration advisers (LIAs), one showing alert notes on a file and another which appears to be a pro-forma checklist with one line marked 'LIA - no LIA warning'.
One of them, who asked not to be named, said even when the alert was deleted on Immigration New Zealand's (INZ's) adviser files, the alert notes and branch warning remained.
Two other immigration advisers in India, spoken to by RNZ, raised concerns about the repercussions of speaking out, and asked not to be named.
"If an officer looks up an adviser for any application at all they can see all branch warnings, even if dealt with, and the associated alert which should not have been raised in the first place by INZ says deleted or expired - it is still there, " said the adviser.
"The branch warning and alert is on the adviser file, not the applicant's file, so regardless of which application an officer is working on, if they check the LIA file as they often do they will see this and it must affect the thinking and attitude of the officer toward that LIA."
One immigration lawyer, Richard Small, said "grey-listings" would lead to applications being slowed down because of increased scrutiny.
Mr Small said he feared a lot of the pressure came from the current political imperative to keep visa numbers low, and certain advisers were being vilified.
"It's not acceptable to basically collaterally attack representatives simply because our client groups have become unpopular or a barrier towards achieving reduced residence figures which I sense that many of them are."
He said senior colleagues were concerned they would be singled out if they raised their voices to complain about systemic problems or took a client's case to the Ombudsman.
He said it was out of line and showed that risk management was running riot.
INZ visa services manager Michael Carley said when an adviser or lawyer made a complaint it was recorded in its complaint system so the response could be directed to the correct person.
"INZ will record that an Ombudsman complaint has been made on the complainant's client record, not the person representing the complainant," said Michael Carley.
"All applications are assessed against immigration requirements. INZ does not place greater scrutiny or priority on cases where a complaint has been made."