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Education agent pleads guilty to four charges of unlawful immigration advice

The director of an Auckland based education placement service for international students has been handed down a commuted sentence of nine months home detention, after pleading guilty to four charges of unlawful immigration advice.

The Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) charged Hanfang (Helen) Liu, director of Headsun International Group Ltd, under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 with four counts of asking for a fee for providing immigration advice while not being, and knowing she was required to be, licensed.

Ms Liu appeared before Auckland District Court on Friday, 16 November to be sentenced after pleading guilty to all four charges in September, which related to unlawful advice provided on student, visitor, and work visa applications. The sentence stems from charges brought against her earlier this year for offences against seven Chinese nationals.

The Registrar of Immigration Advisers, Andrew Galloway, says “This is a serious example of an education agent knowingly providing unlawful advice and taking advantage of their client base; potentially putting them at risk and depriving them of the opportunity to live and study in New Zealand.

“The IAA takes this type of offence very seriously and we will continue to actively investigate and prosecute offenders like Ms Liu.”

Immigration Advisers must be licensed by the IAA, a New Zealand government body set up to protect individuals and families looking for immigration advice, or be an exempt person.

“Our message to international students seeking immigration advice in New Zealand is to check if the person is a Licensed Immigration Adviser or exempt, such as a New Zealand lawyer,” says Mr Galloway.

The IAA’s online register of licensed advisers(external link) is available for those who want to search for a licensed immigration adviser. More information on the IAA can be found at www.iaa.govt.nz.

The IAA looks into all complaints made by the public about unlicensed immigration advice. Individuals found breaking the law can face up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to NZD$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