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Church pastor’s wife sentenced for providing illegal immigration advice

The wife of a church pastor who charged hundreds of dollars from visa applicants for all the applications she lodged on their behalf, has been sentenced in the Auckland District Court for providing immigration advice illegally.

MBIE’s Immigration Advisers Authority charged Sesilia Sua under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 of providing advice without a licence while knowing she was required to and under the Crimes Act 1961 for using forged documents.

Mrs Sua appeared in the Auckland District Court on Monday 27 June 2022 and was convicted and sentenced to 12-months supervision, 200 hours of community work and was ordered to repay one of her victims $8000 by 4 July 2022.

The Immigration Advisers Authority had first warned Mrs Sua against providing immigration advice without holding a licence in September 2017. Mrs Sua, who is known in her local community, disregarded this, and continued to provide immigration advice.

Registrar of Immigration Advisers Duncan Connor says the people affected had mostly met Mrs Sua through church events, where her husband is a pastor or, had been referred to her by friends or family in the community.

In one example, a person who had connected with Mrs Sua through the church network had sought her advice since 2015. Several visa applications lodged by Mrs Sua on their behalf were rejected over the years which saw the person end up residing in New Zealand unlawfully.

Ms Sua, who is from Samoa and holds a New Zealand Permanent Resident Visa, had at times identified herself as a family member in the visa applications she lodged on behalf of her victims and at times, forged documents to support the visa applications.

“Providing immigration advice is a licensed and recognised profession in New Zealand. If people need help with immigrations matters, they should only use a licensed adviser or, a person exempt from holding a licence,” Mr Connor said.

“It is concerning that this person used her standing in the community to dishonestly provide advice and support that caused significant harm to migrants that saw them out of pocket, without a visa and unable to move to New Zealand,” he said.

The Immigration Advisers Authority’s online register of licenced advisers is available to the public who want to search for a licenced immigration adviser.

The Immigration Advisers Authority, set up to promote and protect the interests of people receiving New Zealand immigration advice, investigates complaints made by the public about immigration advice provided without a licence and individuals found breaching the law can face up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Notes to editor

The Immigration Advisers Authority was set up to promote and protect the interests of people receiving New Zealand immigration advice.

We do this by:

  • issuing licences to people who are fit and competent to give immigration advice
  • maintaining competency standards and a code of conduct for immigration advisers
  • investigating people giving immigration advice without a licence or exemption
  • receiving complaints from people who have received poor immigration advice.

Under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007(external link) anyone giving immigration advice must have a licence unless they are exempt. Exempt people include lawyers with a current New Zealand practising certificate and Citizens Advice Bureaux staff among others.

The Authority is independent of Immigration New Zealand and cannot give immigration advice or influence a visa application