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Reference group minutes

Date: Wednesday, 31 May 2017, 10:15am – 3:00pm
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), Asoka Weerasundara (NZAIP, Pro X New Zealand Ltd, Wellington), Carol Wright (Greenstone Global, Hamilton), Arun Jacob (AJV Services, Hamilton), Paola Neilson Sanchez (Neilson Immigration Consultants, Palmerston North), June Ranson (NZAMI, Woburn International Limited, Wellington ), Peter Jiang (Uwin International Investment Limited, Shanghai).

IAA – Catherine Albiston (Registrar of Immigration Advisers - Chair), Catherine Rosie (Senior Technical Advisor) Anna Taufaeteau (Senior Business Administrator and minute-taker).

INZ – Jade Reid (Relationship Manager INZ Henderson).

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

Apologies: Philip Anderson (Technical Team Leader, IAA), Matt Fistonich (NZAIP, Ernst & Young, Wellington).

Discussion

  1. Welcome
    1. Catherine Albiston, Registrar of Immigration Advisers, welcomed members of the group.
    2. The agenda:
      1. Authority Update
      2. Offshore update from visiting offshore adviser (China)
      3. Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice
      4. Supervision
  2. Authority Update
    1. Licensing:
      1. There are currently 1,048 licensed immigration advisers. 70% are onshore and 30% offshore. Of the 1048, 43% have either the Graduate Certificate or Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice.
      2. Since 1 July 2016, the Authority has received 145 initial licence applications.
      3. There have been 656 Fast Track renewal applications and the Authority is on track to complete just fewer than 200 inspection renewal applications by 30 June 2017.
    2. Supervision:
      1. There are 149 provisional licence holders and 117 supervisors.
      2. There are 92 supervisors with 1 adviser, 19 supervisors with 2 advisers, 3 supervisors with 3 advisers, 2 supervisors with 4 advisers and 1 supervisor with 5 advisers.[Note it was erroneously reported that one supervisor had 6 provisional licence holders].
    3. Complaints:
      1. There has been an increase in the number of complaints received regarding both licensed and unlicensed advice.
      2. We have received 58 complaints about licensed advisers compared with 54 this time last year.
    4. Offence investigations:
      1. We have seen an increase in the number of offences being reported, with 76 reported compared to 57 this time last year.
    5. Catherine reported back on the number of graduates as follows:

      Number of graduates from Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology
      Graduate Certificate Graduate Diploma Total
      2012 43 - 43
      2013 120 - 120
      2014 175 - 175
      2015 135 - 135
      2016 97 12 109
      Total 570 12 582
    6. The Authority has an agreement with the Institute to not have more than 150 graduates per year.
    7. The group commented that the attractiveness of the industry was affected by policy changes and the profitability of licensed advisers.
    8. The Authority to report back on:
      1. The number of supervisors who are directly supervising advisers in the same workplace.
      2. The number of provisional licence holders who have completed only half of the qualification.
      3. The number of advisers whose licences have expired.
  3. Offshore update from visiting offshore adviser Peter Jiang (Shanghai, China).
    1. Peter’s work is focused on business migration visas.
    2. Due to the INZ policy change in 2009, the increase in marketing in NZ Tourism and the efforts of Chinese licensed advisers, NZ has become an attractive country for Chinese investors who hold sufficient funds and have strong business backgrounds.
    3. Unlicensed advice is very unlikely in business migration visas.
    4. There may be unlicensed advice occurring in work visas and student visas by way of travel agents. A client can be incorrectly advised to provide false information and declare less income when visiting which becomes problematic when the client decides to apply for a business migration visa later on.
    5. It was suggested that the Authority engage with the licensing bodies in China.
    6. It was also suggested that the Authority target Chinese temporary visitor holders in New Zealand.
    7. The Authority is planning to communicate with Approved Destination Status travel agents about what they can and can’t do.
  4. Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice.
    1. Numbers overview from Peter Richardson (Toi Ohomai – Head of Business School)
      1. Toi Ohomai currently has 14,000 students.
      2. The Graduate Diploma is an online programme using Adobe Connect technology allowing real life tutorials and real time feedback for students.
      3. Number of graduates peaked at 175 in 2014 and has settled at around 120 graduates a year.
      4. In 2017, there are just fewer than 100 full-time equivalent students.
      5. Of course enrolments, 56% are female, 13% are of Maori/Pasifika descent and 7% are international students. The majority of students are aged over 25 years old.
      6. The Institute is anticipating 20 graduates in July and around 80-90 graduates in December.
    2. Programme overview from Jeni Fountain (Toi Ohomai – Group Leader).
      1. This year is the second iteration of the Graduate Diploma and the first year it has been running on its own without the Graduate Certificate.
      2. There are 8 courses which are 13 weeks long.
      3. Industry placement students tend to study courses 1-4 full-time, apply for a provisional licence and then return to the work place and finish courses 5-8 part-time.
      4. There are currently 5.7 tutors. All tutors are either licensed immigration advisers or lawyers, and most have previous or current work experience in the immigration advice industry.
      5. A user learning management tool called Moodle is used to create activities and allows tutors to receive notifications for the work done by students.
      6. Adobe Connect is used for tutorial sessions. It functions as a web conference where students can chat live and web cameras are compulsory. The maximum number of participants in a tutorial session is 16 people.
      7. There are a variety of online lesson types including those where a student can only advance when a question is answered correctly. This encourages the student to take notes, to complete activities which help answer the questions they are given and to advance to the next stage. Although the programme is online, it is highly interactive.
      8. Moodle tracks a student’s progress to the point of allowing a tutor to see what activities a student has completed. This helps the tutor to track a student’s learning and keeps the student responsible.
    3. Keeping the qualification current
      1. The Qualification Steering Group, made up of licensed immigration advisers and a member of the Immigration Protection Tribunal, is providing new scenarios this year to keep the content fresh.
      2. Toi Ohomai interacts with different bodies such as NZAMI and attends Law conferences to network and stay current.
      3. Three tutors are licensed immigration advisers who provide feedback to the programme through their own experience and professional development activities.
    4. Information for supervisors
      1. Toi Ohomai intends to create a video for supervisors giving an overview of each course and the Diploma.
      2. The group raised some concerns regarding supervision:
        1.  Supervisors were teaching basic understanding rather than supervising.
        2.  Tutors had a conflict of interest when they became a supervisor for a student they had taught.
      3. Toi Ohomai welcomes feedback from supervisors to determine which courses require more attention and intends to look into the supervision arrangements of tutors.
    5. Ezymigrate
      1. Ezymigrate provides an online client management tool for students to use to manage their case studies in course 7.
      2. The group raised concerns regarding an email from Ezymigrate about being the only system that immigration advisers have been trained on.
      3. Toi Ohomai explained that this management system was employed to allow visibility for tutors with no cost to the students. The institute had not publicly endorsed Ezymigrate nor is it displayed it on their website. It was a tool used to teach students in course 7 in a practical way.
      4. It was recommended by the group that a tender process for CRM systems be put in place for 2018.
      5. It was noted that the purpose of the course is not to teach students how to use a client management tool but to teach the students how to manage client files and to prepare them for real life experiences when dealing with a client.
    6. Sustainability
      1. Immigration policy is a challenging area and thus hard to predict demand for licensed advisers especially as an education provider.
      2. The Authority’s primary concern is quality rather than quantity. It is concerned with producing individuals who meet the competency standards.
  5. Supervision
    1. Issues
      1. Concerns were raised regarding the qualifications an adviser needs to have before becoming a supervisor. It was suggested that supervisors should have to meet a particular level of competency using criteria such as a training programme for supervisors, reviewing the proposed supervisor’s level of declines of applications lodged, and the number of years holding a full licence.
      2. One member questioned how direct supervision could be documented when the supervisor and provisional licence holder worked side by side. The Authority noted that in a direct supervision situation, it was necessary that a formal meeting occurred as it provides proof that genuine supervision is occurring. Transparency is essential for supervision.
      3. Some members raised a concern about supervisors supervising more than three provisional advisers. There were concerns about the practicality of dealing with so many advisers, the quality of the supervision and the possibility of a limit on numbers.
      4. One adviser who supervises three provisional licence advisers stated that there were systems in place to deal with the volume and a supervisor’s experience should be taken into consideration.
      5. A concern was raised regarding provisional licence holders becoming full licence holders after the minimum requirement of being supervised for two years.
      6. The Authority clarified with the group that a provisional licence holder is assessed and must meet all competency standards before becoming a full licence holder.
    2. Distance supervision
      1. The group was concerned about how distance supervision was monitored.
      2. One adviser who engages in distance supervision noted that they took daily notes and had regular fortnightly meetings which were recorded. There are systems which can be put into place to manage distance supervision.
    3. Overview of current requirements
      1. Since the introduction of the requirement to hold a provisional licence for two years, the end of the two year period will be this December. Therefore, the Authority is expecting an increase in upgrade applications from December 2017.
      2. Provisional licensed immigration advisers are assessed against the competency standards during an upgrade application.
      3. The group acknowledged that the immigration industry has changed over the past 10 years. There have been improvements from a time when there were no requirements for qualifications and supervision; the industry is constantly developing.
      4. The Authority noted that a high standard of work was coming through from the majority of graduates during the assessment of inspection renewal applications. Most of the issues arising from inspection renewal applications arose with advisers who had not gone through the qualification and where there was isolation from other advisers with little feedback.
      5. The group agreed that the supervision requirement elevated the level of professionalism, provided support to new advisers and raised the quality of advisers entering the industry.
      6. The Group made the following suggestions:
        1. Limit the number of advisers that supervisors could supervise.
        2. Ensure high quality supervisors who were experienced.
        3. Assess the product of supervision to ensure that advisers are actually producing cases and are learning from different cases.
        4. Seek feedback from the supervisor about the provisional licence holder’s work and provide feedback to supervisor.
        5. Transparency during distance supervision so that there is effective supervision occurring.
      7. The Authority acknowledged suggestions made by the group and noted that some of these issues are addressed through the licensing approval process for provisional licence holders and upgrades.
    4. Model supervision agreement
      1. The Authority referred to the Supervision Toolkit which covers all the requirements for a supervision arrangement and asked the group for any suggestions to improve it.
      2. The Authority confirmed that the requirement for a fee to be fair and justifiable was based on various factors and that clarity on the fee amount was essential.
      3. The Authority emphasised that the model supervision agreement is only a template which needs to be tailored in order to reflect the reality and the actual situation between the two parties. It was noted that this could be made clearer.
      4. The Authority noted that the supervision toolkit (pg 9) states all the requirements that a supervision agreement must contain.
      5. The group suggested an online tool which pointed out mandatory clauses and informed a user of missing information could be created to help with supervision agreements.
      6. The Authority agreed this could be a possibility in the future and noted that a new feature for provisional license holders would be available soon where they could apply to change their supervisor online.
  6. Open forum
    1. Communications initiatives
      1. The Authority noted the recent campaign in South Africa targeting travel agents, which was through social media and general media and which received good feedback.
      2. The campaign regarding the Pacific Island community has recently wrapped up.
      3. The Authority has been contacting employer association peak bodies’, attending events and a number of articles have been published in their sector newsletters.
      4. A campaign will be launched in the month of June targeting international students via social media and education peak bodies here in NZ to raise awareness about using licensed advisers.
      5. The Authority is planning initiatives for next year and welcomes suggestions.
      6. The group noted that the Philippines, China and South America, particularly Brazil, would be valuable places to raise awareness.
    2. NZAMI noted an improvement in the realistic approach taken by the Authority in handling complaints going through the Immigration Advisers Complaints & Disciplinary Tribunal.
    3. One member suggested a webinar covering conflict of interest would be helpful.
    4. Catherine thanked the group for their participation in the meeting.