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April 2024 newsletter

Message from the Registrar

Welcome to our first newsletter for 2024.

I hope many of you managed to spend some time relaxing over the summer with whānau and friends, refreshing yourself for the year ahead. For those of you who worked through, I hope you have a decent break planned in the coming months.

We are planning our webinars for 2024. Our webinars will focus on learning opportunities we have identified through client file inspections, complaints we have received, and the Migrant Survey results. The first webinar for the year will be on the 23rd of April. Further details on this webinar including a link to register can be found in this newsletter.

It has been busy in our complaints and investigations space over the last few months. We have seen an increase in complaints involving some form of rubber-stamping. A practice whereby advisers are permitting unlicensed individuals to perform immigration work. These unlicensed individuals appear to be acting as intermediaries between the Adviser and the client.

In this newsletter we have an article which provides you with some further insight into the types of complaint trends we are seeing.

We hope you enjoy this edition of the newsletter.

Keep our standards high.

Duncan Connor

Registrar of Immigration Advisers

portrait duncan connor

Webinar reminder: Client engagement and rubber-stamping

As you would have seen from our article on Recent investigation trends, above, we have started to see more and more instances of clients being advised by unlicensed individuals acting as intermediaries between the Adviser and the client (hidden agents). This is sometimes to the point where the client is not even aware of the identity of the Licensed Adviser who is supposedly handling their immigration matter. Rubber-stamping is a seriously concerning trend and we will address it in more detail in our upcoming webinar, details of which appear below.

Date: 23 April 2024

Time: 11:00am to 12:00pm NZT

Click here to register(external link) — Zoom

Message from INZ – Fake visas circulating

Immigration New Zealand is aware of recent cases where the logos of certain immigration companies are being used fraudulently on visas.

Customers can report concerns about potential fraud of this type (or any type) through the MBIE Service Centre on the numbers listed below. Alternatively, for those who are overseas and may not be able to call the service centre free of charge, they can send an email to the Compliance and Investigations inbox listed below:

If customers wish to make a report anonymously, they can report it to Crimestoppers either online or by calling the numbers listed below:

  • 0800 555 111
  • +64 9 927 3971 (overseas callers)

Reporting potential fraud through these means will ensure allegations are assessed and triaged, enabling MBIE to undertake an investigation if applicable (including if the fraud is onshore and meets the threshold for an investigation). It should be noted however that the Immigration Investigations team operate within New Zealand and cannot prosecute offenders based offshore when the offending is committed overseas. Regarding offshore offending, this will typically be a civil/criminal matter for the victim (i.e., a prospective migrant or Adviser) to take up with the relevant authority.

While MBIE is not able to prosecute offshore offenders, we have undertaken proactive work to educate potential victims of scams. Last year, we went live with an anti-scam and migrant exploitation campaign, with a goal to inform potential migrants of scam and exploitation activity in the market. The primary audience were people interested in living and working in New Zealand from China, India, and Bangladesh. Other audiences included Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. The campaign ran until late 2023 and reached over 5 million people (with ‘reach’ being the number of individual users the ads were served to).

Invitation to provide feedback on the Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice

Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology (Toi Ohomai) has a Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice (GDNZIA) Industry Partnership Group. The group is made up of GDNZIA programme staff, an Authority representative, an INZ representative, and Licensed Immigration Advisers. The group is a forum for Toi Ohomai to share information about the programme with industry, and for industry to provide feedback on issues relating to graduate outcomes and the content and delivery of the programme.

If you have any feedback on the GDNZIA please pass this on to one of the GDNZIA Industry Partnership Group members. They can then share the feedback for discussion at our next meeting.

The 2024 Licensed Immigration Adviser members of the group are:

  • Cameron Pritchard
  • Emma Hicking
  • Inder Singh
  • Karen Baigent
  • Siddhata Vyas

If you have any questions or suggestions about the GDNZIA, you can also contact Appley Boyd, Academic Leader at Toi Ohomai.

Her email address is appley.boyd@toiohomai.ac.nz.

Recent Tribunal decisions

The Immigration Advisers Complaints & Disciplinary Tribunal has recently released 5 sanctions for the upheld complaints.

MT v Murthy

The Tribunal found that Ms Murthy breached clauses 1, 19(a), 19(i), 24(a), 25(a), 25(b), 25(e), 26(a)(iii), 26(c) and 26(d) of the Code of Conduct by failing to ensure the Immigration New Zealand (INZ)’s form 1025 was complete before filing with INZ, failing to ensure that the correct Australian Federal Police certificate was provided to INZ, failing to ensure Erik Murthy’s name and licence number were written in the service contract, failing to include payment terms and conditions in the service contract, failing to ensure the refund clauses in the service contract complied with the Code, failing to recognize that the advance payment remained in the property of the Complainant until payable and invoiced, failing to recognize that the advance payment should be kept in a separate client account, failing to recognize that the advance payment should only be withdrawn when the fees are payable and invoiced, failing to provide file notes in the client file, failing to provide timely ongoing updates and failing to confirm material discussions in writing with the Complainant. Ms Murthy was censured, ordered to pay $6,000 the Registrar and to pay $1,438 the Complainant within 1 month.

UT v Lawlor

The Tribunal found that Mr Lawlor has breached clauses 1, 22, 26(a),(b),(d),(e), 28(b) and (c) of the Code of Conduct by withholding information about direct access to information from Immigration New Zealand concerning the status of the Complainant’s visa application twice, which was not professional or respectful, failing to issue an invoice to the Complainant for the $1,500 fee paid on 23 January 2022 and the $3,130 paid on 14 February 2022, failing to show that he had a file (hard copy and/or electronic) or a well-managed filing system or that he had made his file available for inspection by Authority, failing to make timely on-going updates about the visa application and failed to inform the Complainant about Immigration NZ’s request for evidence on 4 May 2023 and failing to produce evidence that he had informed Immigration NZ and the Complainant that his licence was expiring or had expired, and he must cease to represent them. Mr Lawlor was censured, prevented from reapplying for any licence for a period of 2 years from 12 March 2024 and ordered to pay a penalty of $7,000 within 1 month.

MM v Ma

The Tribunal found that Ms Ma has breached clauses 1, 5, 6, 17(c), 19(e) and (f), 20(a), and 22 of the Code of Conduct for by failing to be professional or diligent about the Complainant’s work visa conditions, failing to respond to the Complainant’s concerns and blocking him in WeChat, failing to disclose the conflict of interest to the Complainant or obtain his written consent to continue representing him, failing to provide the Complainant with her internal complaints procedure, failing to provide the Complainant with a full description of the service provided and failing to provide an invoice for the fees and failing to ensure that the fees charged were fair and reasonable in the circumstances. Ms Ma was censured, ordered to complete the LAWS7015 paper at Toi Ohomai at the next intake, ordered to pay $5,000 the Registrar and to pay to the Complainant NZD 19,061 within 1 month of the decision.

RN v L

The Tribunal found that Mr Li has breached clauses 26(c) of the Code of Conduct for failing to confirm the details of material discussions in writing to the complainant. Mr Li was censured and ordered to pay $1,000 to the Registrar within 1 month of this decision.

New decisions are appearing regularly and I encourage you to save the following link as a bookmark. 

Read recent Tribunal decisions on the Justice website:

Immigration Advisers complaints & disciplinary decisions(external link) — Ministry of Justice