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Reference group minutes

Date: Wednesday, 29 March 2017, 10:15 am - 3:00 pm
Place: Immigration Advisers Authority, Level 2, 52 Symonds Street, Auckland
Attendees:

Licensed Immigration Advisers – Nassim Lalehzari (Working International, Auckland), Tim Malcolm (A1 Immigration, Auckland), Sally Lisle (Fragomen, Auckland), Fahim Gul (Success Global, Wellington), Carol Wright (Greenstone Global, Hamilton), Arun Jacob (AJV Services, Hamilton) Munish Sekhri (Sekhri Immigration, Amritsar, India), Matt Fistonich (NZAIP, Ernst & Young, Wellington) and Vandana Rai (NZAMI, Immigration Advisers New Zealand, Auckland).

IAA – Catherine Albiston (Registrar of Immigration Advisers Authority) (Chair), Philip  Anderson (Occupational Licensing Team Leader), Sara Kaur (Senior Business Administrator) (Minute- taker)

Apologies: Jade Reid (Relationship Manager INZ Henderson), June Ranson (Woburn International Limited), Simon Moore (E-Migration NZ), Paola Neilson Sanchez (Neilson Immigration Consultants).

Discussion

  1. Welcome
    1. Catherine Albiston, Registrar of the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA), welcomed the new 2017 reference group members and thanked everyone for volunteering.
    2. The purpose of the reference group is for the IAA to connect with licensed immigration advisers, hear their issues and concerns, get their meaningful feedback and suggestions, and for the advisers to share ideas with other immigration advisers.
    3. A formal round of introductions from Catherine, the IAA staff present and the licensed immigration advisers.
    4. The agenda:
      1. Authority Update.
      2. Future IAA communications initiatives and suggestions.
      3. Topics for discussion at this year’s reference group.
      4. Offshore update from visiting offshore adviser (Munish).
      5. Visa Application Centres (VACs)
      6. Information on the Graduate Diploma for supervisors.
      7. Future IAA Webinars - Suggestions and Feedback.
      8. Open Forum - Suggestions and Feedback.
  2. Authority Update
    1. Licensing Timelines :
      1. We aim to complete 95 percent of initial and upgrade applications in 15 working days after receiving the full application. We are currently sitting at 97%.
      2. We aim to complete 95 percent of fast track applications in 5 working days after receiving the full application. We are currently sitting at 99%.
      3. We aim to complete 80 percent of inspection renewal applications in 25 working days after receiving the full application. We are currently sitting at 86%.
    2. Complaints Timelines :
      1. We aim to close or refer 80 percent of complaints in 115 working days. We are currently sitting at 60%.The delay is due to staff movements and the complexity of complaints on hand. Catherine is committed to turning the timeliness around.
    3. Current Numbers:  Licensing
      1. We have received 119 initial applications so far this year (since 1 July 2016), and have completed 114.
      2. We have received 7 new TTMRA applications so far this year and have completed 5.
      3. We have received 543 fast track renewal applications so far this year and have completed 542.
      4. We have received 169 inspection renewals so far this year and expect to receive around 200, which will be similar to last year. We have completed 159 inspections renewals so far.
    4. Current Numbers : Investigations
      1. We have seen an increase in the number of issues being reported, with 137 reported so far since 1 July, compared to 117 this time last year. The increase may be due to increased communication initiatives we took last year.
      2. We have received 46 complaints about licensed immigration advisers. We have completed 35 complaints so far, and have 37 complaints on hand.
      3. We have received 67 offence complaints. We have closed 63, and have 40 on hand. Of the 63 offence investigations that have been closed:
        • 50 have been closed with a warning or some kind of education.
        • 11 closed with no action.
        • 2 are being considered for prosecution.
    5. Current Numbers : Licensed Immigration Advisers
      1. There are currently 1028 licensed immigration advisers. Of the 1028, 709 (70%) are based onshore. The rest, 319 advisers (30%) are based offshore.
      2. Of the 1028 licensed advisers, 432 advisers (42%) have the immigration qualification, 367 advisers (36%) were licensed prior to the qualification and 229 advisers (22%) were licensed through the TTMRA.
      3. Of the 1028 licensed advisers, 895 advisers (87%) have a full licence, 122 advisers (12%) have a provisional licence and 11 advisers (1%) have a limited licence. The number of provisional licence holders has increased significantly in the last year and a half due to the introduction of mandatory supervision.
    6. Current Supervisors:
      1. In February, there were 88 advisers who were providing supervision to provisional licence holders. Of the 88, 72 advisers were supervising 1 person, 12 advisers were supervising 2 people, and 4 advisers were supervising 3 - 5 people.
      2. There was some discussion around the challenge for graduates to find supervisors. Catherine noted that we have not received many complaints or issues regarding difficulties finding a supervisor, and was heartened to see the growing number of supervisors.
  3. Communication Initiatives – Feedback and Suggestions
    1. Recent IAA Communication Initiatives
      1. The IAA ran a stall Pasifika in Auckland in collaboration with MBIE. An IAA banner was put up and around 2000 pens with our information in English, Tongan and Samoan language were given out.
      2. Catherine attended the Consumer Rights day in Christchurch which is an MBIE organised event. Attendees included people working in voluntary and  the not for profit sectors like the Citizens Advice Bureau, Community Law Centres and others agencies who are dealing with migrants and a wide range of people on a regular basis.
      3. The Pacific Island Campaign was started in January 2017 and Catherine visited Tonga, Fiji and Samoa. There was a week of intensive radio advertising as well as television and print coverage. The social media campaign ran for three months. This resulted in over 35,000 people visiting our website, advertisements reaching  around 200,000 people multiple times and a lot of engagement on Facebook from the Pacific Island communities in New Zealand.
      4. For the first time a social media campaign will be launched in South Africa. There will be a press release and an article will be going out to the travel agents who are members of ASATA (Association of South African Travel Agents), with the message that travel agents cannot provide New Zealand immigration advice.
      5. IAA is going out to various Chambers of Commerce, key industry organisations and professional associations who reach employers employing migrants. We have urged them to publish our article on their website/newsletter or magazines, which has a message with the aim to create awareness amongst the employers and recruiters and what they need to know about providing immigration advice. Catherine has also welcomed invitations for presenting at events they may be running.
      6. An advertisement was posted on the Facebook page of Consumer Protection Branch of MBIE to create awareness about the IAA, which reached around 18,000 people.
      7. IAA attended the Migrant Action Trust Diversity Job Fair and the New Zealand International Education Conference last year. An article was published in NZQA’s different publications targeting primary and secondary schools as well as tertiary providers.
      8. IAA is planning to start a social media campaign before June this year, targeting international students in New Zealand. It is aiming to spread awareness about using licensed or exempt immigration adviser if they are seeking immigration advice.
      9. IAA will be publishing an article in the business.govt.nz newsletter which goes out to around 200,000 New Zealand businesses.
    2. Feedback and suggestions from advisers on communicative initiatives:
      1. One member noted that they had received a marked increase in contacts from the Pacific as a result of the IAA campaign.
      2. It was suggested that IAA should publish articles on the Facebook pages of education providers and communities in New Zealand. It was also suggested that IAA should look to have an official Facebook page.
      3. It was suggested that videos from Catherine would be very useful to educate people about using a Licensed Immigration Adviser (LIA) if they are seeking immigration advice.
      4. It was suggested that a tag on screen of the INZ online visa advertisements with a link to the IAA website would be very helpful.
      5. It was suggested that during the orientation programs of education providers, an introduction about the IAA and using LIAs for immigration advice would be effective.
      6. It was suggested that launching a marketing campaign in the South American market especially Brazil, Chile and Argentina would be effective as there are a large number of applicants coming from these countries on working holiday visas and it is suspected that there is unlicensed immigration advice being given by travel agents.
      7. It was suggested that IAA should check with individual educational providers to ensure that all their onshore education agents are licensed.
  4. Topics for Discussion at this Year’s Reference Group
    All members put forward their suggestions for the topics they would like to discuss in this year’s reference group:
    1. One member was interested to know more about how INZ communicates about the IAA.
    2. Several members wished to discuss the continuing professional development requirements for licensed immigration advisers. One member noted that there should be a more formalised CPD process which states the minimum requirements and the mandatory topics the advisers should be covering. Catherine mentioned that with the changes made in 2015, the ability to require mandatory CPD was introduced but has not been put into practice as yet. Catherine acknowledged it will be a great topic to discuss in the reference group this year.
    3. Several members noted that it would be useful to discuss guidelines for supervisors including distance supervision and issues regarding possible rubberstamping.
    4. One member requested that we discuss how Toi Ohomai monitors examinations overseas, making sure confidentiality and ethics are maintained especially in high risk markets. It was also noted that it would be useful to have a representative from Toi Ohomai to discuss the qualification further.
    5. One member noted that in light of changing immigration requirements and more students enrolling in the Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice (GDNZIA) it would be helpful to discuss what IAA is doing to make sure that the industry is sustainable.
    6. One member requested   discussion on the role of the Visa Application Centres (VACs) in terms of providing immigration advice to clients.
    7. One member noted that they are interested to know the progress of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act review. Catherine mentioned that there is no update on the progress on the Act review at this point.
    8. Several advisers wished to discuss the international student situation, including problems for those onshore who have used unlicensed advisers offshore. One member noted they wanted to discuss what IAA is doing to make offshore education agents more accountable. It was also noted that there should be better collaboration between Education New Zealand (ENZ), IAA and INZ to improve the standard of education in New Zealand and make sure that New Zealand is getting more quality students.  Some members noted they would like to see ENZRA revived to prevent education agents from being alienated. Catherine noted that she was very happy to invite a representative from ENZ to a future meeting.
    9. One member noted that it would be useful to share knowledge and ideas around incorporating different communication tools (such as WeChat) while dealing with their clients and how these fit with Code responsibilities.
    10. One member noted that it would be useful to have a discussion on TTMRA issues including and what CPD completed for MARA can be accepted by the IAA.
  5. Offshore Update from Visiting Offshore Adviser (Munish from India)
    1. Update on the Indian market after the Indian Awareness Campaign and Catherine’s visit to India last year:
      1. Applications represented by LIAs in India have significantly grown from 13% to 67%.
      2. Two risk managers from INZ in Mumbai and Delhi are now specifically engaged in identifying unlawful immigration agents.
      3. Quality of students has gone up with more and more students taking up level 7 and level 8 courses.
      4. People have become more aware and are now more inclined towards using a licensed immigration adviser.
      5. ENZ has recognised the importance of LIAs. On 6th of April 2017, the High Commissioner of New Zealand, ENZ and INZ together hosted a conference in Chandigarh, Punjab. Licensed immigration advisers from all over India were invited to attend for the first time.
      6. The New Zealand government now holds education providers accountable for education agents. As a result the education providers have changed their forms to ascertain if a licensed immigration adviser has been used, and if not undergo certain credit checks.
      7. INZ has published a list of agents with their success rates, which has given the students a choice to make an informed decision about through whom they want to apply for their student visa.
    2. Emerging Issues
      1. A new trend has emerged where unlicensed agents are operating under the umbrella of a recently licensed family member and problematic people are applying for licences.
      2. Recently enrolled unlicensed agents are misleading applicants by advertising “Enrolled in Graduate Diploma”, giving an impression that just by enrolling they have become eligible to provide immigration advice.
      3. Licensed Immigration Advisers for New Zealand (LIANZ) has become very proactive in sharing market intelligence with the New Zealand government to identify any unlicensed immigration advice activity in the market.
      4. The problem of rubber stamping has emerged where unlicensed agents are getting INZ application forms signed and stamped  by LIAs based in Australia for as little as $50, acting on behalf of the applicant and dealing with INZ with the LIA’s credentials. Catherine asked for some evidence and complaints to be lodged.
    3. Group comments
      1. One member noted that LIAs want to see success rates published across the board, as the current list benefits those who are published.
  6. Visa Application Centres (VACs)
    1. Concerns around the VAC staff providing immigration advice were discussed.
    2. Catherine mentioned that VAC staffs are not exempt from the licensing requirements and they can only provide publicly available information and information that is prepared or made available by INZ.
    3. The need for having standardized requirements for VACs across the globe was raised.
    4. IAA will be:
      1. Reviewing the refresher training that INZ will be providing to VAC staff.
      2. Will be developing a back office poster for the VAC staff to remind them of what they can and cannot do regarding immigration advice.
      3. Will be working on a generic poster for the VAC front office. It will be targeting the clients to raise awareness amongst them about the IAA and to use an LIA or exempt person if they require immigration advice.
      4. Reviewing information available about IAA on the VAC Websites.
  7. Information on the Graduate Diploma for supervisors.
    1. Toi Ohomai drafted a document for the IAA website, to give potential supervisors more insight into the contents of the GDNZIA courses.
    2. The feedback from advisers was that the draft is very basic and they should include more in-depth information. Catherine advised that she will invite them to one of the meetings where there can be a more comprehensive discussion.
    3. Catherine spoke about the second half of the GDNZIA which is scenario based. She further added that two years of added supervision was very useful. The advisers also gave positive feedback about the new course and the supervision arrangement.
    4. The work placement for students doing the GDNZIA course was discussed and Catherine noted that she will be putting an article about it in the April newsletter. She also mentioned that advisers looking to supervise should put their names forward to Toi Ohomai.
    5. One member questioned Toi Ohomai’s use of Ezymigrate as part of the programme.
  8. Future Webinars - Suggestions and Feedback
    1. The group had no suggestions for future webinars at this point. Catherine suggested that rather than doing a webinar on code of conduct refresher as a whole, the IAA could pick up particular topics from the Code in order to cover them more deeply.
    2. The group suggested that it is helpful to repeat webinars on different topics to give advisers an opportunity to ask different questions.
    3. Catherine noted that any thoughts or suggestions on topics for future webinars can be e-mailed to her.
  9. Open Forum - Suggestions and Feedback
    1. The IAA website should be more mobile friendly.
    2. There was a very positive feedback from the group on the online fast track renewal.
    3. Catherine welcomed any updates and suggestions from the LIANZ group based in India.
    4. The group acknowledged that it was a very well thought out decision to have a different offshore adviser for each meeting which provides a good opportunity to have updates from different markets.
    5. The group requested some data around the number of advisers dropping/not renewing their licence for different years, in order to measure how sustainable the industry is and if the expectations of new advisers are being met or not.
    6. There was positive feedback on the one year duration for the GDNZIA accompanied by two years of compulsory supervision to attain a full license.
    7. The group noted that it would be useful to have INZ and ENZ at meetings. Catherine noted that she will invite ENZ to one of the meetings. 
    8. Catherine talked about the scholarship that Toi Ohomai is offering for a student of the GDNZIA who intends to provide immigration advice on a genuine not-for-profit basis while working or volunteering for a not-for-profit organisation.
    9. It was suggested that as a part of the licensing process, advisers could be asked if they are willing to provide pro bono services and those who do could be noted on the register.
    10. Catherine thanked the group for attending the meeting.