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Reference group minutes


Date: Tuesday 8 April 2014, 10:15am – 3:15pm
Place: Immigration Advisers Authority, 52 Symonds Street, Auckland
Attendees: IAA – Catherine Albiston (Acting Registrar of Immigration Advisers), Jason Chand (Team Leader, Licensing Assessment), Melissa England (Team Leader, Investigations), Juliet Bruce (Acting Team Leader, Investigations), Jennifer Wheeler (Team Leader, Support), Maheesha Kottegoda (Relationship Adviser), Zoe Gilmore (Secretariat), Sanjai Raj (General Manager, Consumer Protection and Standards)

INZ – Wayne Levick (INZ, Northern Area Manager)

Industry - Keith Manch (Maritime NZ – Chief Executive & Director), Aussie Malcolm (Employer)

Licensed Immigration Advisers
– Toni Alexander (NZAMI), Weihana Delamere (for Tuariki Delamere), Richard Howard, Paul Janssen, Karen Justice (NZAIP), John Lawlor, Rachel Lishman, Jay Shadforth, Sanjeev Singh (via teleconference)
Apologies: Consumer Representative – Janis McArdle (Office of Ethnic Affairs – National Operations Manager)

Licensed Immigration Advisers – Tuariki Delamere


  1. Welcome and introductions
    1. Catherine Albiston, Acting Registrar of Immigration Advisers, welcomed the new 2014 reference group and acknowledged that there has been significant change at the Authority in the last few months. Catherine stressed that the Authority is committed to looking at the qualification for becoming licensed and is planning to meet with as many advisers and other stakeholders as possible in the coming months. The reference group is a tangible way for the Authority and advisers to work together and Catherine expressed hope that the group would be able to achieve something positive.
    2. Catherine introduced herself to the group and this was followed by introductions by each member of the group – including the main things they wanted to discuss in the reference group forum.
    3. Sanjai Raj, General Manager, Consumer Protection and Standards introduced Keith Manch, Chief Executive and Director of Maritime New Zealand.
    4. Items members identified for discussion included:
      1. The New Zealand Graduate Certificate in Immigration Advice
      2. The need for practical experience after graduation
      3. How the Authority continues to review adviser competency
      4. The role of the Authority
      5. What is the Ministry’s overall agenda regarding immigration advisers?
      6. Recognition of the immigration advice profession
      7. Making sure clients get the best advice.
  2. What is the Ministry’s overall agenda regarding immigration advisers?
    1. Sanjai explained that MBIE’s purpose is to “Grow New Zealand for all” – MBIE is pursuing two outcomes: more productive and internationally competitive business and increased opportunities for all New Zealanders to participate in the economy.  Business needs New Zealanders and New Zealanders need business. The performance story for MBIE is that business needs access to capital, skilled labour, to be underpinned by reliable and responsive (soft and hard) infrastructure, and driven by innovation (and through international linkages) towards exports. Anything happening in MBIE is ultimately aligned to its purpose.
    2. There are over 100 regulated professions in New Zealand. We are revising the regulatory framework for occupational regulation which is meant equip analysts to look at multiple factors before making decisions in this space.
    3. We have received feedback since August last year in the immigration adviser regulation space which may be linked to the fundamental regime structure. The review of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 is a tremendous opportunity to have a lot of these addressed.
    4. Catherine added that the review, being run by Martin Jenkins, will look at the fundamental question of whether immigration advisers should be licensed or not. The terms of reference for the review are on the MBIE website.
  3. General morning discussion
    Some of the issues raised included:
      1. The complaints process is too cumbersome – leaves complainants and advisers waiting too long.
      2. Mandatory professional liability insurance.
      3. Advisers who are employed in a business cannot be responsible for actions of their employer.
      4. Licensing regime is still required – many migrants are not complaining when they should.
      5. Before licensing there was a small self-regulated group. Following licensing there is a large regulated group but they are less experienced – a problem created by the government.
      6. Licensing has introduced an avenue of redress for migrants.
      7. Competency Standards need to be pitched higher.
      8. A lot of migrants are misadvised offshore – Authority does not have jurisdiction offshore. Regime has not successfully protected migrants offshore.
      9. Criticism is not of the Authority itself, but of the tools it has to use.
      10. A year or so of supervision is required for course graduates.
  4. Complaints process
    Melissa England (Team Leader Investigations) updated the group on complaints processing:
    1. The Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal (the Tribunal) issued a Practice Note in May last year which directed the Authority to change the way it submitted complaints to the Tribunal. A huge amount of work has gone in to changing the Authority’s processes to fit with the Practice Note.
    2. The Authority received 80 Directions to resubmit complaints to the Tribunal in the new format – some of these complaints were over a year old. The Authority completed the Directions at the end of March 2014 and is now processing complaints in the new manner. There are 50 currently on hand, plus around 30 potential new complaints.
    3. The new process involves more detailed analysis of the complaint and more liaison with both the complainant and the adviser – the outcome will hopefully be less complaints being lodged with the Tribunal.
    4. In the past, when a complaint was received, if it appeared to meet grounds the Authority had to forward it on to the Tribunal. The Authority has now moved the decision point to the end of the process so if the complaint is sorted out between the complainant and adviser along the way it can be closed.
    5. A result of the complaints being submitted to the Tribunal in better order will be less of a backlog at the Tribunal so complaints will be dealt with quicker in the long term.
    6. A question was raised as to where the credibility of the complainant is considered. The Authority responded that as more inquiry is being carried out to ascertain the facts, if the complainant is not credible, their story will not stack up and this will be communicated to the Tribunal who will make a determination based on the facts. Also, minor issues and complaints that really do not stack up with be triaged by the Authority and will be closed as trivial or inconsequential.
  5. Afternoon discussion: Entry standards/qualification
    1. There have been 141 graduates to date, 113 of whom are now licensed. There are a small number in progress but around 25 appear not to have applied for a licence.
    2. The Authority has received 17 renewals from graduates so far – they have been of a high standard and are of comparable quality to past high standard renewal applications. However, this is a small pool and the Authority has heard a lot of complaint and criticism surrounding the qualification.
    3. It is important to set the standard for entry correctly and it is the number one priority for the Acting Registrar. If the qualification is not hitting the mark at the moment the Authority needs to look at options and is keen to hear what is working and what is not.
    4. A question was raised as to how many graduates could have renewed but have let their licence expire instead. Action 1 – [At 16 April 2014, five licensed graduates had let their licences expire].
    5. Suggestions and comments regarding the qualification and entry standards included that:
      1. it would be good to find out how much knowledge and experience of immigration the students doing the course usually have – that would help with understanding as it is possible some students already have experience.
      2. one group member’s course intake was made up of licensed advisers, lawyers, some new graduates – everyone had a base degree and only a few students were a concern in terms of their ethics.
      3. another group member reported that the qualification is a good foundation but there are not enough case examples and nothing can beat working with a skilled adviser. That is where the course is limited – it provides good theory but is lacking mentorship.
      4. a one year graduate diploma may be better than a six month certificate.
      5. the Australian Office of the MARA produces videos of client consultations etc. which could be a good addition.
      6. at one group member’s workplace the approach is taken that it is only after certain amount of time that someone they employ can start to use their knowledge to actually give advice to a client. It is never expected that the qualification will provide that experience and a supervision/practical component is necessary.
      7. all the course can offer is a starting point.
      8. in the UK, any work related to asylum seekers and court requirements is restricted to lawyers. Also new graduates can only work on visitor and work visas to start with. They then do CPD to add components to their licence.
      9. the idea that the Code of Conduct is enough for graduates to understand they are not necessarily competent in all areas is not necessarily enough.
      10. when a migrant looks at the Authority’s register, all full licence holders are the same – the idea that all full licence holders can provide equal levels of advice is very dangerous. The register should include how many years and type of experience each adviser has.
      11. the course hardly covers the investor/business categories but a graduate can then take on an entrepreneur category visa with millions of dollars at stake – this should not be possible.
      12. a stepped process to a full licence is required. The qualification could be retained as a basic foundation or it could be expanded with extra content.
      13. using the course modules as CPD is a concern – CPD needs to build on a foundation – it needs to be something new. Advisers are paying more to do the CPD modules than they would to do the course.
      14. there is a problem in New Zealand, that the market of immigration advisers is too small to warrant large immigration organisations providing CPD.
      15. NZAMI is now running webinars so advisers overseas can attend but webinars will always be limited in comparison to workshops.
      16. immigration advisers are very diverse – not many will provide advice on all areas of immigration equally – after six months someone should not be able to provide advice in all areas immediately.
      17. being licensed is the minimum level of expertise – how advisers can differentiate what they can provide to the client is the issue. It is about consumer awareness. Being on a provisional licence after graduation would help with that awareness.
      18. there is a limit as to how many new advisers the market can take – it is a free market and if there are too many advisers the less capable will fail.
      19. if a recent graduate with no experience can be a danger to migrants but someone in employment would be less dangerous then that should be reflected in the licensed regime.
      20. advisers need more staff to grow their businesses – working with others gives the ability to learn from each other and put in quality control protocols.
      21. advisers can call a professional association member to check thinking – do not necessarily need to put all graduates through large organisations to gain experience.
      22. the Authority cannot provide CPD as it is cost prohibitive.
      23. there needs to be a way for the graduate to move from A to B without exposing migrants to risk whether that is being provisionally licensed, doing CPD components or having previous experience – there needs to be something, should not go directly to full licence.
      24. the qualification is a helpful building block but there could be other options, such as accrediting some firms for apprenticeships.
      25.  the regime should return to how it was before with supervision in employment – the course could remain but perhaps not at the beginning.
      26. there was a comparison to Maritime Sea Time – advisers could have to have done so many hours work experience before being granted entry onto the course – this would put an onus on employers to select suitable candidates for work experience before they could get on the course.
      27. although there have been no complaints to date about graduates, that is not an accurate indication of a lack of problem – need to look at how many cases each of the graduates has done and what their decline rates are. The Authority is currently reviewing this at each renewal but with only 17 renewals of graduates it is too early to tell what renewals will show.
    6. The Authority recommended that licence types be raised with the Act Review Team – at the moment a provisional licence requires that a person be supervised by a full licence holder but no other criteria can be added.
    7. The Authority advised that what could be achieved without the Act Review could include, for example:
      1. increasing the qualification level from a six month graduate certificate to a one year graduate diploma
      2. adding in work experience components
      3. using existing licence types – could graduate with provisional or limited instead of full
      4. adding specific amount of time being on a provisional licence with supervision – e.g. 6 months/two years?
    8. The Authority does not have a high level of evidence that there are problems but there is enough anecdotal feedback to raise concerns.
    9. A group member suggested that the Authority look at everyone’s approval/decline rates to see if there is a problem – at the moment assumptions are being made based on nothing.
    10. Another group member commented that advisers do not want to kill competition in the market – it is up to individuals to be competitive – however the Authority needs to allow people to be licensed while also protecting migrants.
    11. The Authority noted that it is important consider what the regulator’s role should be. There needs to be a certain amount of trust – the Authority cannot check everything. Although graduates get a full licence, many have reported that they do not work in many areas based on the limits of their own knowledge and skills. We need to think about how far regulation goes – the Authority does not want to be an overly prescriptive, more expensive regime.
  6. Ongoing licensing process
    1. The Authority is thinking about a simpler renewal process for the majority of advisers with inspections/audits of a percentage of advisers either on a random or risk assessed basis.
    2. A group member advised that in the UK the OISC audits all files every six years.
    3. A group member asked what percentage of advisers is currently on fast-track renewal. The Authority responded that it has increased from 67% to 80% from December 2013 – February 2014.
    4. Changes at renewal are already apparent. The assessment team is looking at approval and decline rates but is always viewing these in context – they are not enough alone to make any kind of determination.
    5. The assessors are particularly looking carefully where there is evidence of a lot of withdrawals of applications as this can be an indication of a problem. The assessors also hold interviews and use case studies.
    6. INZ was asked last year to look at the work of a sample of new graduates. Some section 61 files were reviewed and the level was actually very good. A group member advised that providing this type of information to the industry on a regular basis would be helpful. It is easy for hearsay to be blown out of proportion.
    7. Another group member advised that it is advisers who have been licensed for some time who display a lack of knowledge – particularly at INZ seminars.
  7. Further entry requirement/qualification discussion
    1. A group member who had gone through the qualification advised that unless you had previous immigration experience the qualification does not prepare you to give advice.
    2. Needing work experience before going on qualification would be a valuable component. At the moment you have employers employing people who cannot get on the course and at the same time people doing the course alone and coming out with a full licence to operate alone.
    3. If it was left to large organisations to take people on before they did the course the same problem that existed before the qualification arrived would exist – large amounts of money would be demanded for work experience.
    4. The question was raised as to whether new graduates are really that big a problem – they are bound by the Code and are all responsible adults who want to help people.
    5. Two group members advised that they select employees first and then put them through the course, rather than employ new graduates.
    6. Concern that the qualification is only teaching ‘popular’ visa types.
    7. The course provider is not offering a salary level that would attract and keep the quality of tutors that are required.
    8. The qualification should cover starter visas in more depth and not try and cover everything. There is far too much on asylum which new graduates should not be advising on.
    9. The Authority advised that they had never anticipated the qualification being in such demand. The Authority is not sure it is their role to do so, but has put a limit on how many students can enrol each year.
    10. A group member advised that if supervision was reintroduced as a prerequisite to a full licence then the market would sort itself out and only those who could find a supervisor would be able to practice.
    11. It is important that whatever solution is put forward, that it does not prevent sole traders from entering the industry, but also does allow employee training. Different levels of training and experience could lead to different licence outcomes. For example a one year course could lead to a full licence or a six month course could lead to a provisional licence and then experience could lead to a full licence.
    12. Feedback from the group was that a one year course would definitely be an improvement but that support is still required at the end which would probably be a provisional licence unless a limited licence that only allowed work in visitor/work visas etc. was introduced. The problem then would be how you progressed to a full licence from that limited licence.
    13. With the larger number of full licence holders in the industry now this may support the return of the provisional licence requirement and the market would then sort itself out.
    14. The Authority’s renewal system does allow for a full licence holder to be cascaded to a provisional licence if the Registrar believes the adviser does not display the competence to continue on a full licence.
  8. Plan for the reference group in 2014
    1. Catherine asked how the reference group could work as productively as possible in the next three meetings.
    2. One group member suggested that providing the high level qualification content to the group to consider would be useful. Action 2 – Authority to provide description of qualification topics to group.
    3. The Authority could speak to graduates in employment to get feedback on the qualification.
    4. One group member suggested that the Authority needs to make the fundamental decision as to whether practical experience needs to be a prerequisite/ intrinsic component or follow up to the course. The Authority then needs to advise the direction they wish to move in and then the group will be able to provide comment. The Authority needs to speak to others in the industry as well and then come back to the group.
    5. One group member commented that the qualification teaches the simple visa types but clients go to advisers for complex cases, not the simple ones.
    6. One group member expressed that they should be able to speak to the Act Review Team, as that is the bigger picture at the moment.
    7. In terms of the remaining reference group meetings, the qualification is a good place to focus as change can be implemented without the Act review.
    8. The Authority should put together some options that could be implemented in the current framework and also look at other options that could be possible with an Act change.
    9. There is a competent CPD model operating at NZAMI. This needs to be fed into the qualification work. It makes sense to talk about entry and ongoing CPD and renewals as a package rather than separating them.
    10. A suggestion was made that a CPD points system would be better than hours.
    11. Action 3 – The Authority will consider all the input today and provide the group with some possible options for the qualification to discuss at our next meeting in June.
    12. Action 4 – Sanjai Raj will advise the Review Team that the reference group would like to meet with them.
    13. Catherine advised that there were other things that could have been discussed such as the new Guide to Licensed Immigration Advisers and the renewals process. Catherine advised that the Authority welcomes any feedback by email/phone etc. Group members do not need to wait until the next meeting to provide feedback. It is always helpful to receive feedback on what is working as well as what is not.
    14. One group member advised that the new Guide is much better than the original draft. Another group member advised that their latest renewal was the best they had ever been through.

Meeting adjourned: 3:20pm

Next meeting: Tuesday 24 June 2014