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Immigration agents to be regulated

Hon Paul Swain
23 May 2004

Immigration agents to be regulated

Immigration Minister, Paul Swain, today announced Cabinet’s agreement in principle to the statutory regulation of immigration agents. The proposal aims to provide greater protection to people who use agents' services.

The immigration advice industry offers a wide range of services to migrants, temporary entrants, and refugee status claimants. Most commonly agents act for applicants in their dealings with the New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS).

Mr Swain said many immigration agents currently do not belong to any industry or professional body. The move to regulate agents was largely in response to feedback from migrants.

“Most agents act responsibly and professionally. However, there are many examples of incompetent and unethical practices. These include giving inaccurate advice, theft of money and documents, failure to lodge applications and appeals, failure to pass on information from the NZIS to the customer, and knowingly submitting false information or fraudulent documents."

The proposal would require agents to be licensed and would provide minimum standards for the industry. An independent governing body would be set up, responsible for administering a code of conduct. The NZIS would be able to refuse applications from unlicensed agents, and agents could be penalised for operating illegally.

"The days of shonky operators are numbered. Regulating the industry means people will be able to have confidence when they hire licensed agents. There will be proper complaint and redress procedures in place to deal with unsatisfactory service."

"I am keen to include offshore agents in the regime, although enforcing New Zealand laws overseas can be difficult. However, Canada plans to regulate offshore agents, and Australia is committed to a similar approach.

Education recruitment agents who provide immigration advice would be exempt from the regulatory requirements when advising on student visa and permit applications. However, officials will be talking to the education export industry to see whether it is feasible to require people to name the person or organisation that helped them with their student visa or permit.

Lawyers providing immigration advice will be exempt because their industry is already adequately regulated."

Mr Swain said there was a range of not-for-profit organisations that help people out with their immigration applications.

"We want them to be regulated as well, but we need to work through the issue of licensing fees so that they are not discouraged from doing their good work."

Mr Swain said that officials are working on the detail of the proposal, including the costs of registration, and will be reporting back to Cabinet towards the end of the year. Legislation is planned for early next year.

"The new legislation will be good for the people using these services and for the many ethical agents in the business who operate to high standards. Those who don't meet the standards will find themselves drummed out of the industry."

Mr Swain also reminded the public that it was not necessary to go to an immigration agent to get New Zealand residence.

“People should be aware that they can also get good advice for free either from the New Zealand Immigration Service itself, or from an MP electorate office if they so choose.

ENDS

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