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Unlicensed immigration adviser sentenced to home detention for providing advice in Pacific community

Media release

23 November 2017

An Auckland woman of Tongan nationality has been sentenced to 10 months home detention and ordered to pay reparation of $6,420 for illegally providing New Zealand immigration advice in the Tongan community. The sentence came after the woman pleaded guilty to 14 charges laid by the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA).

“Maria ‘Ilaisaane Valu-Pome’e appeared in the Waitakere District Court following an investigation by the IAA, where she was sentenced for providing New Zealand immigration advice without holding a licence or exempt status,” says Registrar of the IAA Catherine Albiston.

Mrs Valu-Pome’e was charged with ten counts under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 for providing immigration advice without a licence, for holding herself out as a licensed immigration adviser, and for asking for or receiving a fee. In addition, Mrs Valu-Pome’e was charged with four charges under the Crimes Act 1961, two for using forged documentation and two for dishonestly using documents.

Mrs Valu-Pome’e was previously exempt from the requirement to be licensed. However, after her practicing certificate from the New Zealand Law Society expired in July 2013, she no longer qualified for the exemption to provide immigration advice.

“Mrs Valu-Pome’e provided immigration advice illegally to members of the Tongan community, including a Greymouth family, a couple, and a mother and daughter based in Auckland. All of the victims were unlawfully residing in New Zealand when they finished their dealings with Mrs Valu-Pome’e. She didn’t successfully obtain a visa for any of them,” says Ms Albiston.

“This case serves as a strong reminder the IAA will not tolerate those who provide unlawful New Zealand immigration advice at the expense of vulnerable communities.

“The IAA ran a campaign earlier this year to raise awareness amongst Pacific communities in New Zealand, as well as in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, that unlawful immigration advice can cause significant stress and problems for visa applicants.

“Anyone seeking immigration advice should use a licensed adviser or someone who is exempt, such as a current New Zealand lawyer. A register of licensed advisers is available on our website.”

The IAA investigates complaints made by the public about unlicensed immigration advice. Individuals found breaking the law can face up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to NZD$100,000.

“Anyone can talk to the IAA about their experience without their immigration status being affected,” adds Ms Albiston.

More information on the IAA can be found at www.iaa.govt.nz

ENDS

Notes to editor

The Immigration Advisers Authority was set up to promote and protect the interests of people receiving New Zealand immigration advice.

We do this by:

Under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 anyone giving immigration advice must have a licence unless they are exempt. Exempt people include lawyers with a current New Zealand practising certificate and Citizens Advice Bureaux staff among others.

The Authority is independent of Immigration New Zealand and cannot give immigration advice or influence a visa application.