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Reference group minutes

Date: Wednesday, 23 November 2016, 10:15am – 3:00pm
Place: Immigration Advisers Authority, Level 2, 52 Symonds Street, Auckland
Attendees:

Licensed Immigration Advisers – Matt Gibbons (IntoNZ) (NZAMI),  Matt Fistonich (Ernst & Young) (NZAIP), Stephan Du Plessis (Greenstone Global Ltd), Vandana Rai (Immigration Advisers New Zealand Ltd), Appley Boyd (Heartland Immigration Ltd),  Asoka Weerasundara (Pro X New Zealand Ltd), Arathi Mohan Tekkam (Sparke Helmore Lawyers),  Penny Pan (Sunz International)

IAA – Catherine Albiston (Registrar of Immigration Advisers) (Chair and minute-taker)

INZ – Jade Reid (Relationship Manager INZ Henderson)

Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology – Peter Richardson (Head of Business Studies),  Lynette Steele (Group Leader Legal Studies), Jeni Fountain (Programme Co-ordinator, Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice)

Apologies: Jianqiang Luo, Munish Sekhri, Philip Anderson

Discussion

  1. Welcome
    1. Catherine Albiston, Registrar of Immigration Advisers, welcomed members of the group.
    2. The agenda:
      1. Authority Update
      2. Review of first delivery of Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice
      3. Open Forum and suggestions for next year’s reference group.
  2. Authority Update
    1. Current numbers:
      1. There are currently 1055 licensed advisers. We have seen a drop from around 1100 over the last month. This is due to some TTMRA advisers who became licensed a year ago choosing not to renew. Of the 1055, 38% have the immigration qualification, 35% were licensed prior to the qualification and 27% were licensed through the TTMRA.
    2. Supervision:
      1. There are 88 provisional licence holders and 71 supervisors. We are seeing a steady increase in the number of supervisors coming on board which is very encouraging.
      2. The group noted that finding supervision overseas may still be challenging, but generally were positive with how the new requirements are working.
    3. Complaints:
      1. We have received 24 complaints so far this year (since 1 July 2016), compared with 29 this time last year. We have completed 21 complaints, with 5 going to the Tribunal and 16 closed by the Authority. We have 29 complaints on hand.
      2. The group noted that common themes in complaints were the importance of taking legal advice early, and acknowledging errors up front.
      3. NZAMI noted they will be developing a model written agreement and running workshops on this.
      4. Complaints are coming mostly from clients, some come from Immigration New Zealand and only occasionally they come from another adviser.
    4. Offence investigations:
      1. We have seen an increase in the number of offences being reported, with 44 reported so far since 1 July, compared to 18 this time last year. We have 39 offence investigations on hand.
      2. There is no obligation on licensed advisers to report unlicensed activity, but it is very helpful whenever anyone brings evidence of unlicensed advice to our attention. The group noted that often clients simply do not want to come forward. This is an ongoing challenge for the Authority in the offence space.
    5. Catherine reported back on INZ statistics that the reference group had requested on the proportion of visa applications submitted by advisers and others as follows:

Proportion of  Visa Decisions in 2015/16 by Contact type
prepared for Immigration Advisers Authority

Contact in AMS

Residence

Temporary

Total

Self-lodged - no Adviser recorded

64%

84%

83%

Adviser (Licensed)

27%

8%

8%

Adviser (Exempt) Offshore Student Adviser

0%

4%

4%

Students OnLine (SOL)

0%

3%

3%

Adviser (Exempt) Lawyer

9%

2%

2%

Other adviser types

0%

0%

0%

Grand Total

100%

100%

100%

  1. The group requested additional statistics on a comparison of overall approval rates between these groups. [Note that these statistics were supplied on request from INZ after the meeting]

Proportion of Residence Visa Decisions in 2015/16 by Contact type
prepared for Immigration Advisers Authority (adh6579)

Contact in AMS

Approved

Declined

Grand Total

Self-lodged - no Adviser recorded

90%

10%

100%

Adviser (Licensed)

87%

13%

100%

Adviser (Exempt) Lawyer

84%

16%

100%

Adviser (Advice Only).

94%

6%

100%

Other adviser types

86%

14%

100%

Grand Total

89%

11%

100%

 

Proportion of Temporary Visa Decisions in 2015/16 by Contact type
prepared for Immigration Advisers Authority (adh6579)

Contact in AMS

Approved

Declined

Grand Total

Self-lodged - no Adviser recorded

94%

6%

100%

Adviser (Licensed)

92%

8%

100%

Adviser (Exempt) Offshore Student Adviser

55%

45%

100%

Students OnLine (SOL)

100%

0%

100%

Adviser (Exempt) Lawyer

89%

11%

100%

Other adviser types

63%

37%

100%

Grand Total

92%

8%

100%

 

  1. There is no update on progress on the Act review at this point.
  1. Review of first delivery of Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice
    1. Toi Ohomai has developed and delivered all eight courses of the Graduate Diploma this year. The first four courses have been delivered twice. They have also been finishing off the teaching of the Graduate Certificate for part-time students. The Graduate Certificate courses will not be taught again in 2017. A new refresher course has also been developed and delivered.
    2. There has been input into the development throughout the year from the Authority’s Qualification Steering Group and student feedback.
    3. Courses 1-4 of the Graduate Diploma are similar to the Graduate Certificate but expanded.
    4. Course 5 delves into professional standards and the Code of Conduct in more depth.
    5. Course 6 covers refugee, review and appeal and business categories. There is a plan to extend the material on review and appeal.
    6. Course 7 is brand new and is all about managing client cases. Greenstone Global created case studies for the course. The Institute has put in place an arrangement with Ezymigrate which has given them an online client management tool for students to use to manage their case studies in this course. This has been very helpful and allows tutors to view how students were managing files, including, for example, reviewing their file notes.
    7. Course 8 is for those in a work placement and in addition to the placement they are required to submit reflections.
    8. Course 9 is the Institute’s equivalent of Course 8. Most students were using their simulated case studies from course 7 as the basis for their reflections in Course 9.
    9. Some students are getting a provisional licence at the end of course 4 and then reducing their level of study. In order to get a full licence they have to complete the full qualification. There was some discussion among the group on this matter. Some advisers were concerned that advisers may choose not to complete the qualification and stay on a provisional licence indefinitely. They considered that there should be a limit on the length of time a person can stay on a provisional licence. Some concern was also expressed about the unknown quality of supervision.
    10. The Institute noted that there may be a concern for them if students do not complete their course.
    11. The Authority noted that it will be monitoring supervision records at the provisional licence holder’s first renewal. It also noted that some advisers may have low volumes of cases in the first two years and may not be ready to become a full licence holder at that point.
    12. The Institute and the Authority will be monitoring the situation.
    13. The Institute noted that most students who are failing courses are full-time students who erroneously think they can both work full-time and study full-time. It was also noted that many of those students who are both working and studying full-time are employed by licensed advisers. All those students who failed courses in semester one have re-enrolled in semester two. A few have changed to part-time study.
    14. The Institute noted that is proposing to move to a standard university model of teaching where four courses are taught simultaneously over the course of one semester, rather than courses being taught sequentially as at the moment.
    15. There will be a number of advantages to this new model including:
      1. Students will get a taste of all four courses in the first two weeks of study which gives them a better indication of whether the programme is right for them. They can withdraw in the first two weeks at no cost.
      2. It gives students a longer period of time to absorb and reflect on the course content. In particular, when taught in a shorter period, students tend to want to know the “right answer” straightaway, rather than learning the skill of weighing up the pros and cons of several possible options.
      3. It means part-time students will be able to choose to do one course per semester rather than two.
    16. The learning outcomes are being revised generally to give greater flexibility to respond to changes in policy and priorities.
    17. There is a high level of interest in the programme for 2017 with 141 applications so far. 34 domestic and nine international places have been offered to date. It is expected that around 50% of applications will convert to actual students. The Institute is anticipating 80 new students which is likely to convert to 60 graduates.
    18. Of the international students, the countries are varied.
    19. The Institute noted that the changes in the English language criteria don’t appear to have impacted on interest in the qualification.
    20. The group asked how the Institute coped with big policy changes. The Institute noted that, following the changes this semester, they had four days to rewrite the SMC content before that topic was taught again. They noted that it was great for the students to experience a policy change. One group member noted that since the recent changes they had become more client management focused, working with clients over a longer period of time to get to the point they could apply for residence.
    21. The Institute noted that to help keep scenarios up-to-date it was planning to do workshops with the 2017 Adviser Steering Group. A request was also made for advisers who were happy to make 1-2 minute videos on various topics which students found very engaging.
    22. There was some discussion about the number of advisers who dropped out of the industry in the first year or two of licensing. The Authority noted we had reported on expiry rates at the July meeting. Most expired licences generally occurred during the first two years of an adviser being licensed, which is common across all new businesses. The Institute noted that they are seeing an increase in the number of students who are employed, for example, as recruiters or education agents, which may signal a decrease in the proportion of students setting up a business.
    23. This semester there were six students on work placements. Four were in employment already and two set up the work placement for the purpose of the qualification. Those two had great experiences.
    24. The Institute noted the biggest reason it thought advisers didn’t take on student work placements was a fear of the student taking their business processes and information. Some group members thought this fear was unfounded as most students would not really get to grips with the business’s processes in the short amount of time they were on the work placement. It was noted that many professions have internship models that work very well. Some noted that there are constraints for advisers who work from home and that office space generally was an issue.
    25. The Authority considered that the work placement had got off to a small but solid start and that it was in a good place to grow slowly overtime. In 2017 students will be encouraged to approach advisers earlier. It was also noted that with the change to structure of the programme, students will be able to do a work placement for fewer hours per week over a longer period of time.
  2. Open form
    1. Discussion on taking money in advance
      1. The issue of corporate clients wanting an invoice up-front was raised. The Authority noted its guidance that there should be an agreement in writing to take money in advance, this is then deposited in the client account and invoiced only when the work is done and the money is transferred to the business account. It may be that it is not possible to take money in advance in some circumstances.
    2. Discussion on immigration advisers providing advice on health care entitlements and insurance matters
      1. One adviser raised the issue of how much advice an immigration adviser should be providing on health matters.
      2. Most group members noted that they provide advice to their clients that they may not be eligible for health care and may need insurance.
    3. Discussion on new CPD requirements
      1. There was positive feedback on the online CPD tool.
      2. There was some discussion on advisers being confused about what constitutes CPD, particularly Australian advisers as their scheme is very prescriptive.
      3. There was some concern expressed about the variable quality of CPD.
      4. The Authority noted that a number of CPD records are inspected each year. It would be impossible to monitor the quality of every CPD event or activity, however generally advisers seem to want to engage in activities that are valuable to them and will self-select higher quality activities.
    4. Feedback on the IAA newsletter
      1. The general feedback was that it is good and helpful.
      2. Links to specific Tribunal decisions are helpful.
    5. Feedback on the IAA website
      1. The general feedback was positive.
    6. Communications initiatives
      1. The Authority noted the recent social media campaign in Indian and Sri Lanka was very successful and that it will be continuing with similar campaigns next year.
      2. In early 2017 there will be a campaign in the Pacific Islands and at the same time in Pacific communities in New Zealand.
      3. The group noted that South America, particularly Brazil, and South Africa would be valuable places to advertise.
    7. Students Online concerns
      1. The group raised the concern that it is not possible for education providers to be submitting student visa applications without providing immigration advice. They noted that international students always need help, and that it isn’t so simple. They also noted that because most students want residence ultimately, choosing the right course for them to take is very important.
      2. The Authority noted that all education providers have to declare that they haven’t provided immigration advice on the application form. If the students are not prepared to come forward to us, we have no evidence that this is happening. However, the Authority is concerned about the issue. It has recently sent an article via NZQA to all schools setting out the limits of what they can do. The same article will be going to tertiary providers soon.
    8. Comments on the reference group
      1. The group noted that the format was good and works well. They thought five full day meetings a year was just right and shouldn’t be reduced. They noted that each meeting has been relevant and helpful.
      2. Regarding including an offshore adviser in the group, the technology challenges were acknowledged. The Authority suggested that we invite offshore advisers who are travelling to New Zealand to attend the meetings in person, even if we have a different adviser at each meeting. This idea was supported.
      3. It was suggested to time the meetings the Thursday before the Henderson seminar as advisers travel to that from around the world.
    9. Catherine thanked the group for their participation in the meetings this year and noted that it had been very engaging and enjoyable.