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Reference group minutes

 

Date: Tuesday 2 September 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), Jennifer Wheeler (Team Leader, Support), Rebecca Rowsell (Investigator)

MBIE - INZ – Wayne Levick (INZ, Northern Area Manager)

MBIE – Immigration Policy- Lynda Byrne, Michael Hampl

Maritime New Zealand – Keith Manch (CEO)

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

Industry - Aussie Malcolm (Employer)

Discussion

Welcome and update since last meeting.

  1. Introductions were made. Catherine Albiston welcomed:
    1. Keith Manch, CEO of Maritime New Zealand, joining the meeting to share his knowledge of the regulatory landscape.
    2. Lynda Byrne and Michael Hampl from Immigration Policy, who will be involved in work arising out of the Martin Jenkins report.
    3. Shinalda Wong, a licensed adviser joining the Reference Group with recent experience as graduate of the Graduate Certificate in New Zealand Immigration Advice.
  2. The Martin Jenkins review of the regulation of immigration advice was publicly released on 29 August 2014. 
  3. NZAMI feedback on the Authority’s new complaints process is that there have been significant improvements to the way complaints are being handled.  Catherine noted that a number of complaints have recently been closed without referring them to the Tribunal.

Discussion of Martin Jenkins Report

  1. Members were invited to discuss and provide feedback on the Martin Jenkins Report (the Report) with a particular focus on operational changes that may be progressed in the short to medium term.
  2. The Report endorses retention of a statutory licensing regime but contains a number of recommendations for legislative and operational change. 
  3. The Martin Jenkins review was independent and the recommendations expressed in the Report do not necessarily reflect the views of MBIE or the Minister.  MBIE agrees with the fundamental proposition that a regulatory regime is required but may take a different view on specific recommendations.
  4. MBIE is proceeding to implement the operational recommendations. At this stage, no decisions have been made about the legislative recommendations. Post-election, the incoming Minister of Immigration will be briefed on the work to date. The Minister will need to decide whether to proceed with legislative change, and what priority to give it.
  5. Any legislative amendments to the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act will take some time to implement. MBIE will need to do further policy work, and Cabinet will need to take policy decisions, before any amending legislation can be introduced. The rate at which any amending legislation progresses through Parliament will depend on the relative legislative priorities of the Government. 
  6. The further policy work will not be limited to considering changes recommended in the Report, but will also encompass other amendments identified as necessary. There should be opportunities for engagement with advisers as part of this process.
  7. The Group agreed to discuss each of the Report’s recommendations.
  8. Definition of immigration advice – discussion focused on the scope of the issues this recommendation is intended to address.  Catherine agreed further work would be needed to determine the scope of any amendment and how it might be implemented in legislation.
  9. Exempt advisers - discussion focused on:
    1. The practical realities of requiring exempt advisers to undertake immigration specific CPD.
    2. The wider issue of advice being provided by the staff of exempt advisers (this does not appear to have been highlighted by the Report).
    3. The concern that unlicensed advisers are flying under the radar – can more be done in terms of information sharing between INZ and IAA in this context?
    4. The extent to which educational institutes are unofficially providing immigration advice.
    5. Whether lawyers could hold both a practising certificate and an immigration advisers licence.
  10. Awareness – Catherine is particularly interested in feedback from members on how the Authority could improve the use of industry/adviser networks to raise awareness of the licensing regime.  She asked what resources the Authority could provide to assist.
    A group member suggested awareness raising in the education sector was a priority and INZ was also identified as potentially being in a good position to promote the licensing regime.
  11. Entry to the profession – discussed in further detail below.
  12. Removal of limited licence - discussed in further detail below.
  13. Separation of individual and organisational responsibilities – the focus of the recommendation is around potential regulation of both individuals and companies in relation to key business functions.  Catherine observed that the issues were complex and a lot of additional work would be required to flesh out proposals and thoroughly consider the implications of any changes.
    A number of members raised concerns about a lack of clarity around the degree to which employed advisers can be held accountable for the actions of their employers in light of the Yap decision. 
  14. Removal of offshore licensing requirements - Michael Hampl highlighted this recommendation as an example of where MBIE is not convinced change is warranted.  Further work will be required as part of the Act review.
  15. Wider set of regulatory tools – Currently the only enforcement tools available to the Authority are warning letters and prosecution.  There may be scope for introducing a wider range of options for responding to non-compliant activity.
  16. Alternative dispute resolution – Catherine noted the operational changes already made to the complaints process resulting in complaints being resolved without referral to the Tribunal.  This has included encouraging parties to resolve complaints using advisers’ own complaints procedures.
  17. Structural relationship between Authority and profession – legislative change in this area could be around introduction of a Statutory Advisory Board or otherwise legislating for the role of the Reference Group.  A key challenge for the future will be the industry and the Regulator working together more collaboratively.  While any Act review will take some time, Catherine is keen for greater collaboration to start immediately.  A joint approach to developing a Discussion Paper on Licensing Standards might be a good place to start.
  18. Operational efficiencies – Catherine advised an operational review of the Authority is likely to take place during the current financial year (July 2014-June 2015).
  19. Licensing renewal – discussed in further detail below.

Draft Discussion Paper on Licensing Standards for Immigration Advisers

  1. Members agreed there should be collaboration between the Authority and the Reference Group to finalise a Discussion Paper on Licensing Standards for Immigration Advisers that could be released for consultation before the end of the year. 
  2. In June the Reference Group considered a paper covering entry qualifications, ongoing CPD requirements and licence types.  A revised draft Discussion Paper drawing on Reference Group feedback and recommendations arising out of the Martin Jenkins Report was presented as the starting point for further discussion.
  3. Environmental scan – discussion focused on statistics included in this section of the paper.  It was generally agreed volumes of applications and application types should be factored in to make the statistics more meaningful.
  4. Measures of success – discussion focused on concerns about the inclusion of paragraphs 19(d) and (e) as indicators of a successful regime.  The paragraphs in question relate to the Authority assessing declined INZ applications and withdrawals. 
    Catherine suggested the indicators in paragraphs 19 and 20 could be left out of the final Discussion Paper.  The remaining measures of success focus on objectives identified in the Martin Jenkins Report.
  5. Competency standards – the focus of the draft paper is on competency standard 1 (level of qualification) and competency standard 7 (CPD). However this review is also an opportunity to review competency standards 2 – 6 if necessary. 
  6. Entry qualification - the draft Discussion Paper provided four options for entry qualifications:
    1. The current model - a Graduate Certificate with the option to apply for a provisional licence after completing parts A and B of the course.
    2. Model 1 – an enhanced Graduate Certificate.
    3. Model 2 – a full year Graduate Diploma with a compulsory work placement.
    4. Model 3 - a full year Graduate Diploma with an optional work placement OR additional specialist papers.
  7. The main themes coming out of the discussion were:
    1. The challenges for industry associated with offering work placements.  Members were of the view that a work placement should not be a compulsory component of the entry qualification.
    2. Support for maintaining the option to apply for a provisional licence prior to completion of the full course.
    3. Support for the integration of a greater level of practical material, focusing on core immigration applications, in the existing qualification.
    4. Support for a greater level of industry involvement in the process of determining the content of the qualification/courses.
  8. The general consensus favoured Model 3.  Some members suggested the survey should include a question around the willingness of advisers to offer work placements and should explain the differences between work placements and more formal supervision arrangements.
  9. Continuing professional development - the draft Discussion Paper provided three options for CPD requirements:
    1. Model 1 – Learner centred CPD modelled on the NZ Law Society’s CPD requirements.  CPD hours would be reduced to 10 hours per year but CPD activities would be limited to specified activities with an emphasis on active learning.  Advisers would be required to maintain a CPD plan and verified attendance records.
    2. Model 2 – An accredited activity and points system.  The Authority would be involved in both approving CPD providers and allocating points to CPD activities.
    3. Model 3 – Learner centred CPD (Model 1) with mandatory CPD activities set by the Authority for the first two years of licensing.  This model could also allow for 20 hours of mentoring within the first two years and allow the Authority to specify mandatory CPD activities for all advisers from time to time.
  10. The main themes coming out of the discussion were:
    1. The challenges for overseas advisers in accessing active learning CPD.  The work of NZAMI in offering webinars and web based workshops, was noted as a positive development in this context.
    2. The limited size of the CPD marketplace in contrast to the diversity of CPD needs – the importance of a flexible approach to CPD was noted in this context.
    3. The importance of minimising the cost of CPD – in this context Catherine highlighted the use of study groups as an accessible active learning opportunity under the Law Society Model (Models 1 and 3 above).
  11. The general consensus favoured Model 3.  This option provides flexibility to cater for a range of CPD needs while at the same time providing graduates with an introduction to the wider profession and some CPD guidance in their first two years of licensing. 
  12. Catherine noted changes to CPD could potentially be implemented within a more immediate timeframe as they are not dependent on changes to the qualification.
  13. Licence types – there was general support for graduates to be able to apply for a full licence in light of the proposed change to a more robust qualification with enhanced CPD requirements. There was support for maintaining the ability for a student to apply for a provisional licence while studying.
  14. Renewals process – Catherine noted one of the key recommendations arising out of the Martin Jenkins Report was a move towards a more risk based approach to licensing renewals.  This would likely be modelled on the current FastTrack renewals process with the Authority retaining the option to conduct negative vetting and inspections where appropriate.  The general consensus favoured this approach, although one member suggested there could be merit in retaining one standard renewal.

Conclusion

  1. Members favoured consultation on a reduced number of options in the Discussion Paper to avoid confusing the issues.
  2. The preferred option for consultation was a combination of:
    • Model 3 for the entry qualification (a Graduate Diploma with optional work placement or further specialist papers)
    • Model 3 for CPD (10 hours of verified active learning CPD activities with mandatory CPD requirements in the first two years of licensing, and a further 20 hours of mandatory mentoring to be completed over the first two years of licensing)
    • The option to apply for a full licence following graduation.
  3. It was agreed the preferred option for consultation should be presented as a package in the draft Discussion Paper.  Other options considered should be noted in the paper but fleshed out in less detail. 
  4. The Authority will circulate an amended draft Discussion Paper to members with a view to potentially finalising the paper by the end of September and releasing a document for consultation during October.
  5. It is envisaged the Discussion Paper would be complemented by a survey and a series of face to face workshops with advisers to ensure a robust and inclusive consultation process.  Catherine welcomes feedback on appropriate questions for inclusion in the survey.
  6. The next meeting of the Reference Group is not until November, however, if necessary an additional meeting to finalise the Discussion Paper could be scheduled before then.

Other matters arising

  1. A member noted that the Martin Jenkins report recommends consideration be given to introducing a standardised plain language contract as a template for use by advisers.  Catherine observed that developing a standard contract is particularly challenging and it is something that the Authority has previously looked into.  It is something that could be considered afresh, however, the development of a standard contract would require significant input from the industry.

Meeting adjourned: 3:15pm

Next meeting: 25 November 2014