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Reference group minutes

Date: Wednesday, 21 September 2016, 10:15am – 3:00pm
Place: Immigration Advisers Authority, Level 2, 52 Symonds Street, Auckland
Attendees:

Licensed Immigration Advisers – Simon Moore (e-Migration NZ South Island) (NZAMI),  Matt Fistonich (Ernst & Young) (NZAIP), Stephan Du Plessis (Greenstone Global Ltd), Vandana Rai (Immigration Advisers New Zealand Ltd), Nils Macfarlane (Heartland Immigration Ltd),  Asoka Weerasundara (Pro X New Zealand Ltd), Arathi Mohan Tekkam (Sparke Helmore Lawyers),  Munish Sekhri (Sekhri Immigration)

IAA – Catherine Albiston (Registrar of Immigration Advisers), Philip Anderson (Occupational Licensing Team Leader) (Minute-taker)

INZ – Jade Reid (Relationship Manager INZ Henderson)

Apologies: Jianqiang Luo and Penny Pan

Discussion

 

  1. Welcome
    1. Catherine Albiston, Registrar of Immigration Advisers, welcomed members of the group.      
    2. The agenda:
      1. Authority Update
      2. Communication initiatives
      3. Licensed immigration advisers working with exempt staff
      4. Issues with travel agents
      5. Open Forum and topics for future meetings 
  2. Authority Update
    1. Catherine updated the group about the media coverage of an adviser based in India who was recently issued with a provisional licence. INZ had identified him as being on a list for suspected immigration fraud while acting as a student agent.     
      1. Most people do not have an INZ history prior to submitting an initial licence application. Offshore student advisers who have been exempt from licensing are an exception.
      2. The Authority is unable to take into account allegations when assessing an applicant’s fitness for licensing. It can only consider a conviction under its fitness provisions.
      3. When an applicant submits an application they are declaring that they meet the standards set out in the Immigration Advisers Competency Standards and that there is no other relevant information that should be brought to the Registrar’s attention. 
      4. The Registrar must cancel an adviser’s licence under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 if it is clear that an applicant has supplied false or misleading information.     
      5. The Authority is reviewing what evidence it needs to take into account before a decision is made to issue a licence.
    2. The group discussed these issues and the publicity that had surrounded the matter including concern that any adverse findings against an applicant are well-founded. 
    3. The Authority currently has 1100 licensed immigration advisers. Out of this, there are 69 advisers who hold a provisional licence and 55 supervisors. This represents an increase in the number of provisional licence holders and supervisors from last year. 
    4. Positive feedback was received from advisers about the CPD webinars held this year, which around 500 advisers have attended. A supervision webinar was held on 14 September. The webinar walked participants through the Supervision Toolkit and covered how to be a good supervisor from the Authority’s point of view.
    5. There was general discussion by the group on supervision and supervision fees. The Authority has produced guidance on things to take into account when setting a fair and reasonable supervision fee that will be published shortly.
    6. Only six students at the Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic have enrolled in the first work placement course. The number of students studying full-time had dropped due to several opting to study part-time. The Authority and the Polytechnic will be reviewing ways that it can improve the number of students who can undertake a work placement next year.  Group members noted that the onus should be on students to approach advisers.
    7. The new English language standard will come into effect on 1 October 2016. It will apply to all new students enrolling in the Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice.
  3. Communication Initiatives
    1. The Authority will be re-running a Facebook advertising campaign in India and Sri Lanka to increase consumer awareness about the importance of using licensed advisers. It will be aimed at directing people to the register of licensed advisers. When the campaign was run during March of this year there was a large increase in traffic to the Authority’s website.
    2. The Authority has also been working closely with the Ministry’s Consumer Protection division who have introduced a new website to enable consumers to be more confident about what they need to know and do before purchasing a product or service. In September, the Authority promoted licensed advisers on the Consumer Protection Facebook page. This resulted in 17733 hits and over 1000 engagements which was a great result. 
    3. One member commented that print media is also popular in the Indian market. It is an avenue to a different audience being parents of students who can often be involved in the decision making process for their children.     
    4. During October, the Authority will have a presence at the Small Business Roadshow events in Manukau, North Shore and Auckland Central which will provide it with exposure to 2000 employers. The Roadshow is an MBIE initiative which will involve various government departments interacting with small business owners. This will be a good opportunity for the Authority to engage with employers who may be employing migrants.
    5. During August, the Authority had a stall at the New Zealand International Education Conference (NZIEC) which was held in Auckland. Attendance at the conference enabled Authority staff to talk with a number of onshore education agents and providers.
    6. The Authority is currently working on translating its education agent factsheets into Chinese and Korean languages. The factsheets set out information about what education agents should do when a student needs immigration advice.
    7. The Authority is constantly looking for new opportunities around how to spread the message about using a licensed adviser. In particular, the Authority is looking to reach the international student sector, employers, recruiters and travel agents.
    8. The Authority is also working at identifying industry bodies where the industry has a high volume of migrant workers with a view to communicating with them. The Authority encourages Immigration Advisers to contact the Authority with suggestions.
  4. Group Comments
    1. There was positive feedback expressed by the group about the communication initiatives that had taken place and were planned by the Authority. There was general agreement that there needed to be continuing education with employers to increase awareness about requirement to be licensed or exempt to give immigration advice.
    2. The group also noted ongoing concerns with onshore education agents providing immigration advice.
    3. One member noted that there is continuing abuse of the licensed adviser trademark in India that needs to be addressed.
    4. Another member suggested we target social media sites dedicated to migrants from particular countries.
  1. Licensed immigration advisers working with exempt agents/staff
    1. Catherine emphasised that offshore licensed immigration advisers need to ensure that they are fulfilling their Code of Conduct obligations with student visa applicants especially when they are dealing with exempt agents or staff.
    2. Advisers need to think about their client’s expectations and whether their clients are coming to their company expecting to see a licensed adviser. If this is the case then clients need to get the service of a licensed immigration adviser and not an exempt staff member. The responsibility to ensure that this occurs sits with the licensed adviser. 
    3. It was highlighted that a complaint could arise if a client is expecting to deal with a licensed adviser and the services are provided by an exempt person.
    4. When a student visa application is submitted to INZ, it needs to be very clear it has been submitted by an exempt person or a licensed adviser. The point was stressed that it cannot be both.
    5. An application cannot be submitted in the company’s name alone. Either it is submitted by an exempt person or a licensed adviser.
    6. In the event that an adviser subsequently engages with INZ in response to a PPI letter, they are required to notify INZ that they will now be acting as a representative for the applicant.
    7. There is confusion when an exempt person uses a company letterhead which references that it is from a licensed adviser. It needs to be made clear if a letter is from an exempt person or a licensed adviser.
    8. The Authority will look at providing some guidance to advisers about licensed advisers working with exempt agents and staff in its October newsletter. 
  2. Group Comments
    1. There was agreement from the group that it was very important that advisers need to be very clear with their clients and INZ about who they are dealing with namely a licensed adviser, an exempt staff agent or staff member.
    2. The issues in the India market were acknowledged, however, it was highlighted that some of these issues were also happening in other overseas markets as well such as Brazil and Russia and efforts needed to be made to learn the lessons from India in these markets.
  1. Issues with travel agents
    1. The group discussed the issue of travel agents and the perception that some of them could be acting in a manner that is not considered to be clerical work.   
    2. Some concern was expressed about a communication from INZ in Pretoria, South Africa which was apparently endorsing that travel agents could undertake immigration adviser type duties. 
    3. It was emphasised that travel agents are not exempt and are unable to give immigration advice to customers or colleagues without a licence.
    4. Jade Reid confirmed that the notation in the email from INZ Pretoria about travel agents carrying immigration adviser type work was an error. It was not the intention in the communication that travel agents could do so.
    5. INZ are happy to receive applications from travel agents provided they are satisfied that the travel agent has only been providing clerical work and not immigration advice.
    6. Some travel agents hand in various visa applications and passports to INZ. A travel agent can also fill out an immigration application. However, they can only record information given to them by their client.
    7. The Authority has developed a travel agents factsheet which sets out what they should do if their client needs immigration advice.          
    8. If INZ have concerns that immigration advice has come from a travel agent then INZ can lodge a complaint with the Authority.
    9. The Authority welcomes any ideas or suggestions from advisers about how to reach travel agents and communicate awareness about licensed immigration advisers.  
  2. Open Forum and topics for future meetings
    1. There was some discussion between members about clients not paying fees. 
      1. Advisers can refer the matter onto the Disputes Tribunal or to a debt collector if a client does not pay the required fee for services.
      2. An adviser can specify in the written agreement that they want payment in advance for agreed blocks of work or milestones. There needs to be a client account if an adviser takes money in advance. These provisions are set out in the Code of Conduct Toolkit.
    2. Some members commented to INZ that its adviser seminars needed to be more focussed on how advisers can improve their applications, for example, talking about best practice and avoiding typical problems.
    3. Catherine highlighted a common theme in Tribunal decisions being the importance of how an adviser responds to a complaint being made against them. Advisers are encouraged to seek legal advice to be able to objectively respond to complaints before the Tribunal.  
    4. The following topics were suggested for future meetings:
      1. How unlicensed/ not exempt people were using the apply on behalf function
      2. Progress of the Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice
      3. CPD support for licensed immigration advisers who are based in Australia.
      4. An update on the Act Review.
    5. Catherine thanked the group for attending the meeting.
    6. The next Reference Group meeting is scheduled to be held on Wednesday 23 November 2016 at 10.15am.