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Reference group minutes


Date: Tuesday 24 June 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), Juliet Bruce (Acting Team Leader, Investigations), Jennifer Wheeler (Team Leader, Support), Zoe Gilmore (Secretariat)

INZ – Wayne Levick (INZ, Northern Area Manager)

Consumer Representative - Janis McArdle (Office of Ethnic Affairs – National Operations Manager)

Bay of Plenty Polytechnic – David Lyon (Head of School, School of Business Studies)

Licensed Immigration Advisers – Toni Alexander (NZAMI), David Cooper (for Aussie Malcolm), Richard Howard, Karen Justice (NZAIP), John Lawlor, Sanjeev Singh (via teleconference)
Apologies: Licensed Immigration Advisers – Tuariki Delamere, Paul Janssen, Rachel Lishman, Jay Shadforth

Industry - Aussie Malcolm (Employer)


Welcome and update since last meeting.

  1. Introductions were made.
  2. Richard Martin was convicted on Monday 23 June 2014 – he was found guilty of 93 immigration related charges. Thanks were given to those who have helped with identifying witnesses generally.
  3. The review of the immigration adviser licensing regime has been active since the group last met in April – thanks were given for everyone’s input into the review. Martin Jenkins will be reporting to MBIE in the next couple of weeks.
  4. In the IT space work has been done on the internal transition to MBIE networks and work is continuing on the Adviser Only Access project. This will allow advisers to lodge applications online and ideally the Authority would like it to be up and running this year. It will also provide a secure space for communications with advisers.
  5. Work is continuing on the backlog of complaints after a new process went live in April. Making a decision to close the complaint can now happen at any point before it is referred to the Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal. The reality is that it now takes longer for the Authority to carry out the initial investigation but the process at the Tribunal will be quicker.
  6. When a complaint is received, the adviser is now being asked to provide a copy of the relevant client file to the Investigator. If the file has no issues the complaint can be closed. If issues are identified, the adviser is asked to respond. If defensible, again the complaint can be closed at that point. Previously, if the Authority accepted a complaint it would have to be sent to the Tribunal.
  7. The new Guide to Licensed Immigration Advisers is now on the Authority’s website and hard copies are to be distributed to stakeholders.
  8. The Authority ran a Google Ads campaign to direct offshore migrants to the register. The Authority is keen to continue the adverts. It was run as a trial for three months from March to May. One member of the reference group advised that they had experienced more enquiries from people finding them on the register during that time. The Authority will ask in the next newsletter if any other advisers have experienced an increase in traffic to the register.
  9. Catherine Albiston and Sanjai Raj visited the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA) in Australia in May. OMARA is bigger but their challenges are similar.
    1. OMARA has a high rate of churn in the industry but is growing and has recently hit 5000 advisers on their register for the first time.
    2. OMARA is continually looking for ways to improve standards.
    3. OMARA has a mandatory CPD programme – there are challenges to maintain it and keep quality high.
    4. OMARA does not administer offences – they are only focussed on complaints about agents. OMARA determines most complaints itself.
  10. The Authority is continuing to work on up skilling staff – in general and in immigration policy competence.  

Discussion on the role and functions of the Authority, including promoting CPD in newsletters and utilising licensed advisers

  1. It is good to take the opportunity of having the reference group together to discuss short term immediate views, ideas and feedback – what can the Authority do over the next few months?
  2. A view from a group member was that the Authority is doing a very good job in an uncertain environment. Communication over the last few months has helped the relationship with the industry. The Authority seems to be taking a big picture view and is being proactive in the areas it is able to be. Advisers are prepared to work together for the best long term outcome for the industry.
  3. Catherine advised that the Authority’s small licensing team is working very hard and quickly.
  4. A group member commented that the Authority receives criticism for the number of staff it has – it would be good to tell people what each team does.
  5. A group member advised that there is less feeling that businesses are being intruded upon – the fear and trepidation of renewals has been removed.
  6. The story of the Authority’s Google Ads campaign needs to be communicated. Advisers need to know what the Authority is doing for them.
  7. Catherine advised that our Communications Adviser is leaving the Authority to take up another appointment. Rather than replace the role, the Authority will use MBIE’s central communications resource.
  8. A group member advised that Authority staff getting out and visiting advisers is a good initiative – continue doing this, especially visiting smaller adviser offices. The biggest challenge for the regulator is the diversity of the industry.
  9. This year is the last opportunity for provisional licence holders to upgrade with client files. This pathway will close at the end of December 2014. The Authority is expecting a surge of upgrade applications as a result.
  10. The biggest team in the Authority is in the investigations space – some staff are on temporary contracts to assist with clearing the complaints backlog.
  11. Jenny Wheeler, Team Leader Business Support, is doing a lot of work on the Adviser Only Access project.
  12. There is currently no one in the Policy role that Catherine previously held so Zoe is now doing some of that work.
  13. The Authority has had people asking if we can advertise CPD events in the monthly newsletter. The Authority would need to be consistent if doing this and would need to assess relevancy. The Authority knows that NZAMI and NZAIP CPD offerings are relevant but how would other providers be evaluated without an accreditation system?
    1. Advisers currently have to complete 20 hours of CPD a year – some must be active learning and there may be elements of self-directed learning.
    2. It would be useful for the Authority to point out the known acceptable sources of CPD for new advisers.
    3.         Encouraging attendance at seminar and workshop style learning events will lift overall standards.
  14. The Authority has received suggestions that a licensed adviser could be employed/contracted to the Authority.
    1. Feedback from the group was that it is important to maintain the independence between the regulator and the industry. Advisers could be used to test thinking and seek second opinions on a case by case basis but do not think it necessary to employ someone to do this. The reference group or a similar forum could be used for the Authority to test scenarios with the advisers.

Discussion on competency standards – What are the problems? How would we measure success?

  1. David Lyon, Head of School, School of Business Studies at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic joined the meeting.
  2. The reference group had been provided with a draft discussion paper.
  3. At present it is known that:
    1. out of 116 graduates, 24 are self-employed and 62 are directors, therefore a high proportion are working alone
    2. although it is early days, there is not a high expiry/surrender rate
    3. the 21 renewals received so far have been of a high standard
    4. so far the Authority has received no complaints against graduates.
  4. A group member asked for a comparison of numbers of complaints against advisers who received a full licence straight away against those who began as provisional licence holders. Action: The Authority will advise the group of these statistics.
  5. The following draft statistics [draft at 24 June 2014] were provided to the reference group:
Approval Rate by Year Licensed
Year first licensed Approval rate %
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
2008 76 92 91 90 89 90 94
2009   91 91 90 90 90 93
2010     92 93 93 93 96
2011       91 89 91 95
2012         86 91 92
2013           88 93
2014             95
  1. Faced with the above statistics, no complaints received against graduates and high standard renewals to date, the group was asked for their thoughts on what the problems are.
  2. A group member commented that they would be wary about using the number of complaints as a measure as they estimated that the Authority probably only sees around one in ten possible complaints.
  3. A group member asked how the Authority assesses graduate renewal applications. Jason Chand responded that their renewals are subject to a greater level of scrutiny, focussing on competency. The Authority has an option at renewal to cascade a licence holder from a full licence to a provisional licence should the Registrar deem it necessary.
  4. Toni Alexander advised that the NZAMI assesses applications for membership and have recently declined a couple of applications.
  5. The session was used to discuss what the problems are and if the Authority made changes, how they would measure success.
  6. Problems identified were:
    1. Graduates are immediately authorised to practice with a full licence.
    2. There are a lack of safeguards for people practising on their own.
    3. The course is high pressure – a lot of content in a short time.
    4. The course does not teach real life/practical experience – advisers are usually contracted for non-standard applications – they will rarely see the type of black and white cases being taught in the qualification.
    5. A lot of graduates are working in isolation.
    6. OMARA has a similar qualification and they have a high rate of churn in the industry – could the same thing happen in New Zealand.
  7. Measures of success identified were:
    1. Graduates are job ready to be either self-employed or employed.
    2. The industry has confidence in the graduates.
    3. The level of participation in CPD is high.
    4. The Authority assesses declined INZ applications and is satisfied with how they are dealt with.
    5. The Authority looks at why applications are withdrawn and is satisfied with the reasons.
    6. Graduates have business success – they stay in business.

Discussion on options for changes to competency standards – Licensing models & qualification models

  1. The draft discussion paper provided model ideas for licensing options and qualification options – the models could be mixed and matched and other ideas were welcomed. Each model was discussed.
  2. Main themes coming out of the discussion were:
    1. The entry level qualification should be a higher standard – perhaps a one year diploma.
    2. There was strong support for a work placement within a longer qualification followed by a full licence.
    3. If the industry wants standards to rise they need to intervene themselves to help achieve this.
    4. There was support for compulsory CPD in the first year or two of being licensed, possibly developed by industry.
    5. A mentor system through CPD could be explored, rather than a traditional supervisor/provisional licence holder relationship.
    6. If provisional licence remains an option, no more than six months to attain one should remain otherwise it is detrimental to businesses.
    7. Changing the qualification needs to be approached carefully as the format will shape the industry of the future.
  3. Other comments included:
    1. The new code of conduct provides a tool to lodge complaints about supervision.
    2. If limited licences were to be used they should be limited to providing advice on temporary, SMC and family residence visas.
    3. The importance of acknowledging diverse cultural backgrounds, business models and specialities of licensed advisers.

Next steps including participation in BOPP’s Programme Advisory Committee

  1. The Authority could go out to wider consultation – this would entail getting the industry involved in robust and inclusive consultation.
  2. Any next steps will need to await the report from the review of the regime but would include:
    1. teasing out some of the models
    2. looking at the Competency Standards as they are currently written – they need to accurately reflect a competent adviser
    3. looking at the content of the qualification.
  3. The Competency Standards would need to be updated before the qualification could be changed as it would need to teach the Competency Standards.
  4. The Programme Advisory Committee at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic has had the same membership since the course has been taught. It was suggested that around 5 members of the reference group be selected to join the committee which would provide continuity between the discussions in both forums. Action: The Authority will email the reference group to ask for volunteers.
  5. The Authority also needs to consult with advisers to see how they would feel about providing placements for students during their studies at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic – the reference group members advised that a student could be given plenty to do/observe during a practicum without having to give immigration advice.
  6. The Authority could look at holding face to face sessions for any advisers that wish to attend to discuss options for the Competency Standards.
  7. The Bay of Plenty Polytechnic could interview graduates to see what they feel is missing from the course at the moment – what would have benefitted them in entering the industry?
  8. The group felt the discussions had been very useful and everyone was thanked for giving up their time to attend the meeting.

Meeting adjourned: 3:15pm

Next meeting: Tuesday2 September 2014