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Reference group minutes

 

Date: Wednesday, 2 March 2016 10:15am – 3:15pm
Place: Immigration Advisers Authority, Level 2, 52 Symonds Street, Auckland
Attendees:

Licensed Immigration Advisers – Toni Alexander (A1 Immigration Services) (NZAMI representative), Jennifer De Wald-Harrison, Matthew Fistonich (Ernst & Young) (NZAIP representative), Vandana Rai (Immigration Advisers New Zealand Ltd), Asoka Weerasundara (Pro X New Zealand Ltd), Stephan DuPlessis (Greenstone Global Ltd), Munish Sekhri (Sekhri Immigration), Penny Pan (Sunz International Investments Ltd), Jianqiang Luo (Luo International Limited), Arathi Mohan Tekkam (Sparke Helmore Lawyers), Nils Macfarlane (Heartland Immigration)

IAA – Catherine Albiston (Registrar of Immigration Advisers), Philip Anderson (Occupational Licensing Team Leader), Alexandra Simpson (Senior Technical Advisor), Erica Su (Senior Business Administrator) (Minute-taker)

MBIE guests – Wendy Parker, Anaru Silao, Nelson Curry

INZ – Antony Jukich (Immigration manager, Henderson)

Apologies: June Ranson (Woburn International)

Discussion

  1. Welcome
    1. Catherine Albiston, Registrar of Immigration Advisers, welcomed the new 2016 reference group and thanked everyone for volunteering.
    2. The purpose of the reference group is for the Registrar to hear advisers’ ideas and concerns, and for advisers and the Authority engage in discussion on these issues.
    3. The agenda:
      1. Authority Update
      2. Immigration Advisers Licensing Act Review Discussion
      3. Open Forum / Offshore Student Visa Exemption
  2. Authority update
    1. Communications
      1. Catherine is going to India in March and will be meeting with INZ, Education New Zealand and licensed advisers. There will be a press release and paid advertisements in three languages to raise awareness of the importance of using a licensed adviser.
      2. The Guides to Licensed Advisers are being refreshed with the Authority’s look and will be translated into Chinese, Korean, Samoan, Tongan, Hindi and Punjabi.
      3. For the first time the Authority will have a presence at the Pacifika and Polyfest events. There will be an MBIE stall with other branches of the Ministry. An estimated 70,000 people go to Polyfest each year so this is a good opportunity to be proactive in reaching out to those people.
      4. Organised advertisements to run between April and June in ethnic media targeting the Indian and Filipino communities.
    2. Teaching of the Graduate Diploma began in the last week of February. The Steering Group that was set up to develop the Graduate Diploma will continue this year. The course materials for the year ahead are being developed progressively.
    3. IAA Online
      1. Since November 2015 advisers can lodge their inspection and fast-track renewal applications online, new applicants can make their initial application, and also advisers can change their details online.
      2. Continued improvements are being worked on.
      3. An online complaint form and an upgrade form are planned for the future.
    4. Supervision and CPD
      1. The supervision and CPD toolkits are available online.
      2. The Authority will be running a number of webinars on supervision and CPD; it is important for all advisers to understand the new CPD requirements.
      3. The Authority is interested in hearing feedback from advisers regarding the new supervision requirements and encourages advisers to become supervisors.
  3. Act Review Discussion

    MBIE Comments

    1. No decisions have been made on any of the proposed changes to the Act at this stage.
    2. Timelines were discussed (subsequent to the meeting these have come under review).
    3. Possible licensing changes:
      1. It is proposed that section 9 of the Act be broadened to allow INZ to refuse to deal with applications lodged by unlicensed advisers. There was some discussion of the impact of these provisions on the client, but agreed that it is helpful for INZ to have the ability to deal with applications where the unlicensed adviser comes to light after the application has been lodged.
      2. It is proposed that contact details should be removed from the register for advisers who are no longer licensed for any reason. Other register proposals include noting the reason for licence cancellation on the register and removing address for service.
      3. When assessing a licence application, section 16 and 17 are discretionary matters the Registrar can consider in determining whether an applicant is fit to be licensed. A proposal is to include under section 16 any offences committed under our Act, which appears to have been an omission.
      4. There is also a proposal to be able to consider and/or take action under sections 16 and 17 during an adviser’s licensing period, rather than only at licence renewal.
      5. Another licensing tool being considered is the ability to impose conditions on a licence. At the moment the Authority is able to approve, refuse, or cascade a licence from full to provisional - conditions could take the form of a requirement to take up relevant training.
      6. These proposals were generally supported by the group.
    4. Possible investigation changes
      1. There has been suggestion that infringement notices could be a tool for dealing with unlicensed advisers, in addition to warning letters or prosecution which are the only tools currently available under the Act.
      2. New tools are also being proposed for handling complaints such as alternative dispute resolution that includes mediation. The parties may need to agree with this process so if one party does not agree, it can still be referred to the Tribunal.
      3. There may be times when the Authority has a view on what actions an adviser should take to address the complaint. A proposal is that Authority could require the adviser take certain actions, for example, a refund of fees. If the adviser agrees the complaint can be closed. The benefit of this is that there would be no public record if the complaint is resolved by this process. It may be of concern to some that this gives the Authority a lot of power in the handling of complaints, therefore, rights to appeal to the Tribunal would be introduced for either party.
      4. A right for advisers to appeal a Tribunal decision to uphold a complaint has been proposed as currently advisers can only appeal the Tribunal’s sanctions decision. This appears to be an omission.
      5. These proposals were generally supported by the group.
      Other proposals

      1. Under current requirements, former INZ officers who hold a warrant must have a two-year stand-down period before they can work at the Authority. This is limiting when the Authority wishes to hire staff with good immigration knowledge. Consideration is being given to removing this requirement. Some advisers preferred to keep the two-year stand-down period for former INZ officers working at the Authority based on the perceived prejudice in potentially treating the adviser’s licensing application unfairly, but generally there was support for removing both this ban and the 12 month ban for INZ staff becoming licensed immigration advisers.
      2. There is a proposal to clarify that the exemption for lawyers also covers their staff.
      3. It is proposed that not-for-profit status should be displayed on the register.
      4. It is proposed that sanctions imposed by the Tribunal should be displayed on the register until they have been complied with, or, in the case of a censure, for a period of time set by the Tribunal. In Australia migration agents are censured for a certain period of time and that is publicly displayed.
      5. A life-time ban from applying for a licence could be introduced for very serious offenders. This may not be necessary as those who have committed serious offences currently need to undergo a very stringent fitness assessment, but at the moment the maximum ban is two years which may not be perceived as long enough. As well as a life-time ban, the length that a ban on reapplying may be increased to longer than two years.
      6. It is proposed to make it clear that the Tribunal can request information from the Authority when hearing an appeal against the Authority’s decision to reject a complaint.
      7. Change is proposed to make it clear that interim orders issued by the District Court while an adviser is waiting for their appeal to be heard will allow an adviser to continue to practise while the sanctions are stayed, and that the adviser will be required to meet regulatory requirements as if they held a licence.
      8. These proposals were generally supported by the group.
    5. Group Comments

    6. Unlicensed agents in India do not declare their assistance on application forms, these applications are refused and a character issue is recorded on the applicant. This negatively impacts on the outcome of the applicant’s future applications. It was noted that this issue would be discussed further with licensed advisers and INZ in India.
    7. It was also raised that travel agents offshore instruct their clients not to declare their involvement but they guide them on how to answer questions in interviews and so on. This makes detecting whether unlicensed agents are involved difficult.
    8. It was suggested that the Authority should require new advisers to only be able to do certain types of applications. The Authority’s view is that the qualification has become longer and in addition to that we have introduced the two-year supervision requirement. Introducing further requirements may not be necessary and may discourage licence uptake.
    9. It was suggested that the Authority should have a panel of approved supervisors. At the moment advisers who are interested in supervising are encouraged to advertise their services with professional bodies such as NZAMI and NZAIP.
    10. It was suggested that people who were lawyers previously should not need to be supervised. A similar suggestion has been raised regarding former INZ officers who become advisers. The Authority noted that it would be challenging to create and implement criteria around this.
    11. It was suggested that if a complaint is resolved using alternative dispute resolution, or the adviser complies with the Authority’s requirement and the complainant has accepted it, the complainant should not be able to raise this matter again, and the Authority should not be able to look into this matter in section 16 when the adviser renews the licence.
    12. Some advisers are not sure why the online register has included names of advisers who have had their licences cancelled, surrendered and so on. The rationale behind it is that these advisers may have current clients so this acts as a warning that they can no longer give advice, it is also similar to the Companies Office register.
    13. The group was also asked for any further ideas for changes to the Act.
  4. Open Forum / Offshore Student Visa Exemption

    Group Comment
    1. As raised before, unlicensed agents have caused significant negative impacts on the export education market.
      1. There are just over 30 licensed advisers in India but thousands of education agents, there is little incentive for those agents to be licensed as that comes with a lot more responsibilities and obligations.
      2. More needs to be done to promote the value of licensing to incentivise as many as possible to become licensed.
      3. The way New Zealand education is being marketed overseas is resulting in the decline in the quality of students arriving onshore.
      4. Students are placed at schools that can offer the highest level of commission to the education agents, and the interests of the students are neglected. Students and their families are also forced to take loans which they have been falsely promised they can pay off quickly once they arrive in New Zealand. It was noted that New Zealand’s commissions are the highest in the world.
      5. The group understands tackling this problem requires a multi-agency effort.
    2. A suggestion was made to include the licensing requirement in large bold text just above the applicant declaration on INZ forms in increase awareness.
    3. There have been scenarios where offshore unlicensed agents are working with licensed advisers on the surface but are actually giving the advice. (This issue needs to be raised with the Authority)
    4. There was also a suggestion that marketing education and providing immigration advice should be separated.
    5. It was suggested that there should be registration of all student advisers.

    6. IAA Comments

    7. The Authority has more leverage when offenders are onshore.
    8. It is hopeful that our new communications strategy will help raise the level of awareness offshore.
    9. If the off-shore exemption is lifted one suggestion is that a transitional period should be allowed for some of those education agents to become licensed. They could perhaps show examples of their previous work when applying for a limited licence working in student visas only and not be required to complete the full qualification.

    10. Other Matters / Topics for Next Meeting

    11. Newly licensed advisers can start their own practices. There should be some form of requirement so they have prior business experience before they can start their own business.
    12. Provisional licence holders are able to advise on matters under supervision, but whose responsibility is it when a complaint arises?
    13. Issues around clerical staff and the limits on what they can do (eg they can’t help enter online applications).
    14. Catherine thanked the group for attending the meeting and noted that this year’s group is diverse and engaged.