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The new rules spelt out for Immigration Advisers

Hon Clayton Cosgrove
Minister of Immigration

7 March 2008 Media Statement

The new rules spelt out for Immigration Advisers

The professional standards and code of conduct that Immigration Advisers will have to meet in order to get and keep a licence have been released today, said the Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove.

Under a new law, anyone who provides advice about New Zealand immigration matters will have to be licensed (unless exempt). Today’s release of the code and industry competency standards means that Advisers now know exactly what will be expected of them prior to applying for a license from 4 May 2008.

Mr Cosgrove said licensing brings clear benefits for migrants, their communities and honest, ethical Immigration Advisers who want their professionalism recognised.

“Before the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act was passed, anyone could call themselves an Adviser, whether or not they were competent to give immigration advice. The actions of a few shonky operators have seriously disadvantaged some migrants, as well as damaged the reputations of legitimate Advisers. For those few, the writing is on the wall.”

“Licensing means that people who wish to provide immigration advice will have to prove their expertise by meeting competency standards. Licensed Advisers will also have to adhere to a code of conduct, which will increase industry-wide professionalism and ethical behaviour.”

Mr Cosgrove also said that the new law provides for stiff penalties for fraudulent or unlicensed Advisers.

“Licensed Advisers who breach the code of conduct can have their licence revoked or be fined up to $10,000. Unlicensed people who are caught providing immigration advice can be sentenced to 7 years in prison, a fine of up to $100,000, or both.

“Migrants are making a big commitment when they choose to come to New Zealand. This government is serious about protecting them, as well as supporting Immigration Advisers who practice fairly and within the law.”

Immigration Advisers who practice in New Zealand will have to be licensed from 4 May 2009. People who work offshore but give advice about New Zealand immigration matters will need to be licensed by 4 May 2010.

Licensing is managed by the Immigration Advisers Authority, a statutory body that is hosted within the Department of Labour, but runs independently from the Department’s day-to-day immigration functions.

The competency standards and code of conduct for Immigration Advisers are available on the Immigration Advisers Authority website (www.iaa.govt.nz)

--

Background Information

What does this new law mean in practice?
Under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act, anyone who gives immigration advice about New Zealand immigration matters will need to be licensed, unless exempt. However, there is a range of things one can do to assist migrants that is not considered “advice” (such as providing publicly available information, pointing a migrant to a website, directing someone to Immigration New Zealand or to a licensed Adviser, translation or interpretation, or settlement services). If assistance does not go beyond these areas, or if you qualify for an exemption, a licence is not needed.

Who is exempt from having to be licensed?
Certain people will be exempt from licensing, but can still provide advice. These include:
- People who provide immigration advice in an informal or family context only, so long as the advice is not provided systematically or for a fee
- Current members of Parliament and their staff who provide immigration advice within the scope of their employment agreement
- Foreign diplomats and consular staff accorded protection under certain Acts;
- Public service employees who provide immigration advice within the scope of their employment agreement
- Lawyers
- People working (either employed or volunteers) for community law centres, where at least one lawyer is involved with the centre
- People working (either employed or volunteers) for Citizens Advice Bureaux
- People who provide immigration advice offshore who advise on student visa and permit applications only
- People exempted by Regulations
Others might be prohibited or restricted from becoming licensed, such as someone convicted of an offence against the Immigration Act or an undischarged bankrupt.

Why is this new law to license immigration advisers needed?
Before the new law was passed, anyone could call themselves an Adviser, whether or not they were competent to give immigration advice. The actions of a small number of poor practitioners have seriously disadvantaged some migrants, as well as damaging the reputations of legitimate Advisers.
By making Immigration Advisers a licensed, recognised profession, migrants can trust that they will be provided with the correct and best information, whether they receive it directly from Immigration New Zealand or from an Adviser. As well as protecting migrants, the new law protects Advisers who are above board and practice fairly. Licensing will help ensure that they give their clients sound advice and professional service. The law also supports new continuing professional development programmes and recognition of their work as a regulated profession.

What are examples of problems/issues that highlighted the need for this law?
A report by the Department of Labour appraising the immigration advice industry identified complaints about immigration advisers, including:
- lodging unfounded/abusive refugee status claims without the client's knowledge
- inaccurate advice about immigration policy leading to poor and costly decisions
- theft of money and documents
- failing to lodge applications and appeals
- failing to pass on information from the Department to the client
- knowingly submitting false information or fraudulent documents to the Department

In some cases of incompetent or unethical practices by an adviser, applicants suffered serious financial loss due to high fees and unsuccessful settlement in New Zealand. Some also suffered damage to careers, family dislocation, significant personal hardship and were unable to gain approval to re-enter New Zealand. The cumulative harm caused was in many cases significant, and irreversible in others.

ENDS

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