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Reference group minutes, 20 March 2019

Date: Wednesday 20 March 2019, 10:15am – 3pm

Place: Immigration Advisers Authority, Level 2, 52 Symonds Street, Auckland


Licensed Immigration Advisers – Jaqueline Chong (PWC, Auckland), Holger Heinrich Gerhard (Holger) Weischede (New Zealand Immigration Help Service, Auckland), Zinnia Manchanda (Aims Global Immigration and Education Services, Auckland), Soon Hoe Lim (Loo & Koo Migration Services, Auckland), Megan Rosene (Straight UP NZ Immigration, Blenheim), Asoka Sirithilaka (Asoka) Weerasundara (Pro X New Zealand Ltd), June Ranson (Chair NZAMI, Woburn International Ltd, Wellington), Tom Lawler (NZAIP, EY, Wellington), Vandana Rai (NZAMI board member, NZ Immigration Advisers Ltd, Auckland), Arunima Dhingra (NZAMI board member, Aims Global Immigration and Education Services, Auckland)

IAA/MBIE – Andrew Galloway (Registrar of Immigration Advisers, IAA), Anastasia Sherry (Senior Technical Adviser, IAA), Michael Docherty (Principal Engagement and Communications Advisor, MBIE), Nick Forrest (Engagement and Communications Advisor, MBIE), Rob Perry (Relationship Manager, INZ), Su Choi (Relationship Manager, INZ).

Guests – Appley Boyd and Sally Forbes (Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology).

Introductions / Welcome / Open Forum

Andrew opened the meeting and the group did a round of introductions.

The Christchurch tragedy was discussed. Andrew noted and read a message from a group of licensed advisers and noted that many advisers would have personal connections with the victims and their families. It was agreed that LIAs feel a personal connection to the tragedy and that there could be a mental toll on the network.

The IAA had talked in the recent newsletter about the offer of a webinar covering the matter of mental health and wellbeing. In addition to this the IAA will communicate to the network a message with a reminder of the help available for people affected by the tragedy.

A moments silence was observed for the victims and their families and the wider community affected by the event.

The Terms of Reference had been circulated to members and was discussed. It was agreed that it could take final form. The group also discussed whether a consumer representative would be appropriate. It was agreed that the IAA could approach a consumer representative and invite them to the group. A copy of the final Terms of Reference is attached.

Licensed Adviser Reference Group Terms of Reference [PDF, 38 KB]

Andrew reported on current numbers as follows:

There are currently 1125 licensed immigration advisers, with 73% onshore and 27% offshore.

The Authority has received 23 complaints in the year to date (compared to 54 this time last year). Of those, the Authority had sent 10 to the tribunal (30 this time last year), and it has closed 22 (18 this time last year). Andrew noted that while complaints are trending downward the Authority noted more serious and complex complaints are being seen.

There are currently 26 complaints on hand and 35 offence investigations on hand at the Authority.

Open forum discussion included concerns with education agents that were allegedly assisting student visa matters but also straying into supporting partner and family and providing advice in the pathway to residency. Concerns were also noted regarding the changes at INZ and less local knowledge being used in the processing of applications.

It was also suggested that the previous work undertaken in the area of reminding people of the limits of clerical work, generally noting that unlicensed advice in recruitment and employment seems to be a matter that warrants more attention and public awareness and promotion.

Update from Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology

Appley Boyd and Sally Forbes provided a thorough update on the Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice.

Questions followed the presentation and covered matters including clarification on special admissions, how things are tracking, use of relevant and recent case law and the quality of English.

There was a further question on whether material covering ‘running a business’ was involved for people that wish to start out on their own. Andrew noted there was support available for small businesses within MBIE and will investigate whether the IAA could promote this more.

The presentation is attached:

Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice [PDF, 1.1 MB]

Communication plan for the IAA

Michael and Nick from MBIE Communications team joined the meeting by teleconference to talk to the IAA communication plan.

The IAA communication plan included keeping media releases being released (and targeted where appropriate to the right media channels) regarding convictions and relevant decisions.

The IAA also responds to media requests. The proactive marketing for the IAA is in development and the plan at this stage includes the development of campaign collateral that can be used in digital form – with the usual key messages for the IAA (using a licensed adviser or someone that is exempt and risks of unlicensed advice).

It is planned to use digital channels (with an acknowledgement that recent events have meant facebook and youtube are currently not used). The collateral is with the in-house design team at present and will be produced soon.

There was an acknowledgement that the profile needed to be kept high in overseas markets (especially high risk markets) and this could be complimented by on the ground activity like the previous Registrar undertook.

There was a suggestion that for marketing on-shore; linked in, trademe jobs and seek be used in particular when we are marketing to recruiters / employers. The key message could be that ‘qualified licensed advice is a good way of ensuring a seem-less pathway’ or similar.

Review of Supervision in the licensing scheme

Andrew noted that supervision was a matter that was flagged to him early in his role and IAA have some concerns that include:

  • Reports that new graduates are experiencing issues finding supervisors
  • Reports that employers are having trouble finding recent graduates
  • In some cases, suitability of the supervisor
  • Reported costs of supervision (fees need to be reasonable)
  • Actual support being received

There was a report from one provisional adviser on the reference group who had feedback from a facebook group of licensed advisers including:

  • People in the course experiencing trouble finding supervisors
  • The quality of the supervision (some arrangements seemed to be for financial interest)
  • The quality of advice in some cases

In one reported case the provisional licensee had been asked to ‘rubber stamp’ applications. There was also concern at the perceived requirement to have a back-up supervisor (noting the challenge of finding one). There seemed to be a huge variance in the fees charged by supervisors and reports of the encouragement of a sign-on fee for clients (which is dissuaded by the IACTD).

From a licensed adviser employer perspective it was noted that there would be reluctance to take on a provisional licensee unless it was in an employment relationship, or working in the firm.

Alternately, from the provisional licensee’s perspective, if it was only to be an option of working for a firm, what would be the process at the end of the supervision period for IP and taking clients if the provisional licensee wanted to break off and practice independently.

It was also noted that in small towns or regions, working in an established firm could be difficult, but it was noted that some employers would be happy to come to that kind of arrangement (remote working).

The challenge of coming out of the course at the half-way point (four papers completed) then practicing while managing the aspects of a business was discussed.

Consideration could be given to a system of qualification for supervisors, (or body of supervision) looking at other occupational licensing or regulatory schemes, or a system of approving supervisors.

There was also discussion of an incentive for supervisors. It was noted that we need to be mindful of the cost of compliance on top of already lean small businesses.

The challenge of a supervisor not knowing what a provisional licensee might be submitting without the supervisors knowledge was also discussed.

The matter of professional indemnity insurance was also discussed.

The question was asked whether practicing after half the course is complete is appropriate.

It was noted by some provisional licensees that the IAA had recently required applicants to have a back-up supervisor. Anastasia clarified that IAA recommended applicants consider a back-up supervisor as without a supervisor provisional licensees can’t practice. It wasn’t a requirement but more of a suggested precautionary measure should the supervision relationship end for any reason.

Appley talked about the proposed research the Institute is undertaking on supervision.

Andrew noted his thanks for the constructive conversation and advised that his next step is to work with the team at MBIE to develop an issues and options paper for consultation with licensed advisers and stakeholders.

Licensing assessments

Anastasia introduced a discussion on the licensing assessments undertaken by the IAA on renewal and upgrade of licences. At present the IAA undertake client file inspections on a risk based approach.

The IALA (s.20) provides for competency to be satisfied by a range of means including: the application; an examination; an interview; review of any work carried out by the applicant; consideration of information from an overseas body (e.g. MARA), carrying out an inspection or any other matter relevant to the application.

The current process of client file inspections is a thorough and time-consuming process that at times has frustrated applicants. IAA is interested in hearing views on using alternative methods of determining competence.

The IAA was asked what criteria it uses to select renewal inspections. It looks at any warning / alerts, approval rates of applications, the number of applications, licensing history (previous improvement letters) and previous complaints or tribunal decisions. The Registrar also reserves the right to select an adviser for inspection for any reason.

It was noted that there is a difference between competency and good practice and the general consensus from advisers was that client file inspection is the best way of determining competency. It was noted and agreed that some of the criteria for selecting inspection may rely on flawed data, however the selection process includes using those criteria as an indicator. IAA was aware of the flaws in some data sets and applies a reasonable lens to this.

The concept of an on-line test had the risk of not being able to supervise the sitting of the test. Interviews were considered not to be as effective as client file inspection.

The advisers questioned IAA on its current backlog and it was noted that the IAA had some delays owing to changes in staff and lack of capacity but it was treating upgrades and initials with priority as with renewal inspections the licence stays in force.

The meeting ended at 3.00pm and Andrew thanked everyone for their attendance and contribution.