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Reference group minutes

 

Date: Tuesday, 13 November 2012, 10:30am – 2:30pm
Place: Immigration Advisers Authority, 52 Symonds St, Auckland
Attendees: IAA - Natasha Narayan (Chair - Operational Policy Manager), Catherine Albiston (Operational Policy Manager), Barry Smedts (Registrar of Immigration Advisers), Jennifer Wheeler (Business Manager), Jason Chand (Team Leader, Licensing Assessment), Alan Collin (Team Leader, Licensing), Maheesha Kottegoda (Relationship Advisor), Zoe Gilmore (Secretariat)

INZ - Wayne Levick (Regional Manager Central)

Licensed Immigration Advisers - Toni Alexander, Jennifer De Wald-Harrison, Matt Fistonich, Howard Levarko, June Ranson (NZAMI), Holger Weischede, Julie Wilson
Apologies: Robson Liang (NZAMI)

Agenda

  1. Welcome and Previous Action Points
  2. Authority Update: Operational Update
  3. Migrant Survey 2013 - 1st quarterly results
  4. Presentation: Authority’s Investigations & Complaints Processes
  5. Update: Parts C & D of the Policies and Procedures for Licensed Immigration Advisers Manual
  6. Licensed Immigration Advisers Code of Conduct 2010 Review
  7. Employer Factsheet
  8. End of year surveys
  9. Open discussion

1 Welcome and Previous Action Points

1.1  Natasha Narayan welcomed everyone to the third and final meeting of the 2012 Licensed Immigration Advisers Reference Group (the reference group). Robson Liang's apologies were tendered and June Ranson advised that she would represent NZAMI.

1.2  The previous action points were discussed and are summarised in the table below:

Action Response Status
4 Why does the Immigration Advisers Authority (the Authority) have to wait for a complaint before they can investigate unlicensed behaviour? Alan Collin to present on Authority’s Investigations and Complaints processes later in meeting. Closed
5 Rewording of question regarding the Treaty of Waitangi in the next Migrant Survey so that consumers are first asked if they did request information, and then, if they did, did they receive it? Question has been reworded for the 2013 Migrant Survey as suggested. Closed
6 Rules around an initial consultation with a client will be communicated in the monthly newsletter once sanctions have been laid on the complaint that has produced the decision that deals with this issue. New section on initial consultations added to Part D of the Policies and Procedures for Licensed Immigration Advisers Manual and reported in the Authority’s November newsletter. Closed
7 The Programme Advisory Committee has been established and needs two members of the Licensed Advisers Reference Group to complete the membership, as representatives of the industry. Jennifer De Wald-Harrison and June Ranson selected to represent the group and participated in the 1st meeting on 30 August 2012. Closed
8 If there are any website topics required for the website review missing from the list provided please forward them to Natasha before 28 August 2012. Thanks to those who forwarded information. All suggestions were incorporated. Thanks to Julie Wilson for testing the exercises. All three exercises now complete and results being used to inform the new design. Closed
9 Could any translated material on the website have a link on the home page in the translated language? We will look at this option when looking at the redesign of the website. Ongoing
10 Wayne Levick is going to look at the options available within current INZ communications to strengthen the message to employers about not giving immigration advice. Redesigned Employers Factsheet circulated to INZ and Jennifer De Wald-Harrison for comment, and new draft for discussion today. Ongoing

2  Authority Update: Operational Update

2.1  Barry Smedts updated the group on the Authority's current performance.

2.2  All licensing forms have been updated to reflect the new Immigration Advisers Competency Standards 2013 which come into effect on 1 January 2013. Some will be available from 3 December 2012 and the remainder in the New Year.

2.3  The first Adviser Satisfaction Survey 2012 has been completed and the results will be published in the December newsletter. There is around 70% satisfaction overall.

2.4  Discussion coming out of this agenda item is summarised below:

Question/Comment Authority Response
When do provisional licence applications need to be with the Authority by to be processed under 2010 Competency Standards? Complete applications received before closure on 24 December will be lodged and then assessed in the New Year under the 2010 Competency Standards. If an application is received at the last minute and is not complete, it will be returned to the applicant who would then need to complete the qualification before they can reapply.
How many complaints does the Authority investigate instead of forwarding them on to the Tribunal? Barry did not have this information - however there are very few complaints that are not forwarded to the Tribunal.
What can the Authority do about an adviser who has a complaint with the Tribunal for two years or more? There is a provision under section 53 of the Act to suspend a licence pending outcome of complaint; however, the Tribunal needs to consider that there is sufficient public interest for this to be necessary or desirable.

3  Migrant Survey 2013 – 1st quarterly results

3.1  The Migrant Survey has been run annually from 2009 but will now be run quarterly. Those visa applicants who have a personal email address on the INZ database are surveyed ­ however the Authority tends to find that most advisers fill in their own address in the "client's email address" box. The reference group advised that if an adviser puts the client's details on the application form, INZ contacts the client directly instead of contacting the adviser.

3.2  Wayne Levick (INZ) advised that the system should be that both the client and adviser details are provided on the form, and if an adviser contact is provided INZ should communicate with the adviser.

Action 11:  Wayne will follow up with INZ as to how this message can be communicated to INZ staff so that trust in the system can be returned. This in turn will provide a larger client base to survey.

3.3  The overall results of this quarter's survey were positive and comparable to the 2012 results.

3.4  New questions were introduced this year, all with good results: As a result of using a licensed immigration adviser…

Agree/
Strongly agree
I feel my interests as a consumer were protected 84%
My impression of New Zealand as a migration destination was positive 87%
I had a better chance of having a successful visa application 84%

4 Presentation: Authority's Investigations & Complaints Processes

4.1  A presentation was given by Alan Collin, Team Leader Investigations.

4.2  Complaints relate to licensed immigration advisers. Tribunal decisions regarding complaints are based on a balance of probabilities. In October 2011, 67 complaints had been referred to the Tribunal which related to 41 licensed advisers. 30 cases had been decided; 24 upheld and 6 dismissed. At that stage approximately 70% of cases were being upheld. Now at 30 October 2012, 134 complaints have been referred regarding 63 licensed advisers. 61 decisions have been made; 47 upheld and 14 dismissed ­ this is 77% upheld. It is to be expected that at the start of a licensing regime more complaints will be forwarded until standards are set.

4.3  Offences generally relate to unlicensed activity. These need to be heard through the courts and therefore require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a higher level of proof than is required for a complaint about a licensed adviser through the Tribunal. Only the most serious alleged offence cases can be taken to court which means that other methods such as warning letters are used to stop offending. Often investigations are unique and difficult. The Authority is operating under a new Act with very little case law to refer to. The definition of "immigration advice" has not yet been defined by the courts. Most complainants that report offences do not have English as their first language and have little knowledge of the legal system. It is also difficult to encourage people to come forward with their complaints; there is often mistrust of authorities, particularly if the complainant is in New Zealand unlawfully.

4.4  Licensed advisers need to encourage clients to come forward about unlicensed activity and to report unprofessional advisers.

4.5  Discussion coming out of this agenda item is summarised below:

Question/Comment Authority Response
Are there complaints received that are not forwarded on to the Tribunal? There have been a few complaints received by the Registrar that have been determined under Section 45(1) of the Act to be trivial or inconsequential and so have not needed to be pursued.
What is the total number of complaints sent to the Tribunal against the total number of advisers ever licensed? Action 12: Authority to find out exact figures.
798 total advisers and 139 total complaints about 64 different advisers.
Therefore 8% of total advisers licensed have had a complaint made against them.
Mediation does not seem to be undertaken on a regular basis. It is not within the Authority’s functions to mediate.
Can you refer charges under other Acts? Yes, there is nothing to stop the Authority from referring charges under other Acts where appropriate.
What backgrounds do your investigators have? A mixture of police and other government department investigator backgrounds – we expect experience in investigating and taking cases to court.

5 Update: Parts C & D of the Policies and Procedures Manual for Licensed Immigration Advisers

5.1  Natasha showed the reference group where parts C and D of the Policies and Procedures Manual for Licensed Immigration Advisers are on the website and thanked the reference group for their contributions in the development of the policies.

6 Licensed Immigration Advisers Code of Conduct 2010 Review

6.1  A draft of some proposed changes to the code of conduct were provided to the reference group in confidence. Natasha asked the reference group to think about the best way that consultation could take place with licensed advisers. The consultation is likely to take place between January and March 2013. It is important that the code of conduct works for advisers, which is why the review is taking place. Barry added that the Authority wants to remove ambiguity so that we do not have to wait for the Tribunal to make a decision before we can see what a clause really means.

6.2  Suggested ideas from the reference group for the consultation were: written consultation; participants attending focus groups; using NZAMI and NZAIP to facilitate discussion and provide feedback; conducting meetings with licensed advisers; practitioner led debates; advisers making suggestions as well as commenting on a draft; and, that more than just email consultation would be needed.

Members of the reference group commented that:

6.4  Catherine Albiston noted that during consultation the Authority will want to know if advisers agree with any proposed changes, and also the practical impact of any proposed change, particularly increases in costs.

Action 13:  Send email to advisers and put article in December newsletter to ask what advisers do and don’t like about the current code of conduct prior to formal consultation on any proposed changes.

6.5  Discussion coming out of this agenda item is summarised below:

Question/Comment Authority Response
Why is the Authority reviewing the code of conduct? The Registrar often receives feedback on problems with the code and Natasha has also been collecting emails with suggestions to improve the code. Writing the policy manual also highlighted other issues and the Authority has examined immigration adviser codes from other countries. The consultation will find out whether the ideas are right for New Zealand immigration advisers.
Why can the Authority not tell advisers whether what they are doing is OK under the code of conduct? It is not the Authority’s role to provide legal advice as to whether compliance is taking place. The policy manual provides tools to use if advisers wish to. The Authority’s role is to develop and maintain the code of conduct and competency standards and the interpretation is then the role of the Tribunal.
If you say the purpose of the Act is to protect consumers, then what do advisers pay their fees for? After a long passage of policy advice it was decided that the industry needed to be governed and regulated. The application fee contributes to the cost of the application process; the levy contributes to the cost of running the rest of the Authority.
Could advisers have a fact sheet to explain what is in the code? Action 14: The Authority will look into this option.

Employer Factsheet

7.1  The new employer factsheet will shortly be on the Authority’s website and be put as a link in letters sent by INZ to accredited employers. Jennifer De Wald-Harrison commented that the accredited employer information needs to be sent from INZ by letter rather than by email. The format of the employer factsheet will be used to create factsheets for recruiters, travel agents and education agents and providers.

Action 15: Wayne to look into option of sending information to accredited employers by letter rather than email.

End of year surveys

8.1  The reference group members completed end of year surveys about their experiences on the reference group in 2012.

Open discussion

Action 16:  Email Maheesha any suggestions about what you would like to see in the newsletter in the future.

 

Meeting adjourned: 2:40pm