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Reference group minutes, 24 June 2020

Date: Wednesday 24 June 2020, 1pm - 3pm

Place: via Zoom


Licensed Immigration Advisers - June Ranson (Woburn International Limited, Wellington – NZAMI Chairperson); Amanda Gaskin (Ernst & Young, Wellington – NZAIP member); Steven Dunning (Greenstone Global, Hamilton); Steve Baker (Enterprise Recruitment, Christchurch); Hemant Kaushal (Contact New Zealand Immigration Consultants, Auckland); Vanita Hurbuns (A2 NZ Immigration Limited, Auckland)

IAA - Simon van Weeghel (Acting Registrar of Immigration Advisers), Anastasia Sherry (Senior Technical Advisor), Polina Finney (Technical Advisor).

Guests - Appley Boyd (Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology)

Apologies - Caren Donald (KPMG, Auckland)

Introductions / Welcome

  • Simon opened the meeting and the group did a round of introductions.

IAA update

  • While communications channels had changed during the COVID 19 lockdown, IAA staff are now back at the office premises on a full-time basis and the counter is open to the public.
  • Simon is clearing some of the backlog work which had accumulated during the COVID-19 lockdown period
  • Webinars will start again in about 2-3 weeks. The IAA will present four webinars, as originally planned, although they will be scheduled closer together
  • For the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on CPD hours, please see the most recent COVID -19 update
  • Update on licensed adviser numbers: The numbers have increased from last year. Currently there are 1187 licensed immigration advisers, up from 1,161 in January 2020 and approximately 21% of whom are provisional licensed holders
  • Prosecutions for unlicensed advice were delayed due to the COVID lockdown. However, those have resumed and there is a media release coming up in this regard.
  • Complaints against licensed advisers have increased by a small number. There have been 60 for this year. Overall, however, complaints have decreased since 2016. This can be attributed to a number of reasons, such as the introduction of a formal professional qualification for licensed advisers and better engagement with the industry.
  • Recruitment for a permanent Registrar role to start soon. The delay was caused by internal branch business processes and the COVID 19 lockdown.

Other updates:

  • OMARA is in the process of reviewing their scheme, including the provisions of their Code of Conduct. A participant who is also a registered Australian Migration Agent advised that OMARA will be introducing a requirement to new entrants to operate under supervision for a period of time.
  • The IAA has noted an increase in licensing queries from Australian Migration Agents, but it is unknown if this will lead to an increase in Trans-Tasman licence holders in the short term.

Group discussion

Thoughts on the current supervision regime

  • For supervision to be successful, provisional licence holders look for strong mentorship and experience
  • Supervision works very well within the context of a big company whose structure is inherently suited to a supervision set-up
  • It is harder for advisers starting on their own who may lack the knowledge and professional network necessary to find a supervisor
  • In some cases, there may be logistical hurdles and time constraints impeding effective supervision
  • Distance supervision can work if managed properly
  • A suggestion was made for the Register to include the names of full licence holders who are willing to supervise. This may give new entrants to the profession a good starting point.
  • It was noted that supervision is a huge responsibility which not is necessarily understood by all potential supervisors
  • Both the provisional licence holder and supervisor must exercise duty of care towards the provisional licence holder’s clients
  • The exercise of the latter should be scrutinised more by the IAA
  • Being a supervisor can be time-consuming, stressful and even risky for the supervisor
  • It was suggested that currently not enough use is being made of the opportunity for provisional licence holders to apply for a limited instead of a full licence. Later, it was suggested that some of the reasons for that may be that limited licence holders are also required to have completed 24 months of supervision. Further, full licence holders do tend to work within their known area of expertise. In fact, under the Code an adviser is obliged to work within the scope of their knowledge and skills and must refer potential clients to other professionals, if they lack the skills and experience to advise the client properly
  • The competency standards around limited licence holders and upgrades will be reviewed in future criteria for becoming a supervisor
  • Simply being a full licence holder and having a note on the Register indicating availability to be a supervisor is not enough
  • Neither is length of experience alone. Their experience should be diverse and cover a range of immigration matters
  • The following additional requirements were discussed: introducing special training for supervisors (by way of a formal course or additional CPD-type options); extra inspection of supervisor’s work
  • The IAA does check the supervisor’s licence history, INZ activity, number of provisional licence holders working under their supervision, and past supervision records to ensure that the proposed supervisor has the capacity to undertake supervision. The IAA is limited by the current content of the competency standards (there are no additional formal competencies required of supervisors) as well as legislation.
  • The IAA may not be in a position to formally refuse a supervisor and (on account of privacy reasons) communicate their concerns to the provisional licence holder who is the actual applicant. The best that the IAA can do at the moment is ‘recommend’ that the provisional licence holder seeks a new supervisor.
  • If there is evidence that the supervisor and/or the provisional licence holder are not complying with their supervision agreement, the IAA can investigate further and take action if necessary. From a complaints perspective, however, poor supervision has not caused too many issues in the industry.
  • Provisional licence holders should undertake due diligence before entering into a supervision arrangement
  • The IAA may be in the best position to decide who is suitable to become a supervisor. A review of the competency standards in that regard will be undertaken in due course. Any additional measures will be phased in gradually. From a regulatory perspective it is important to do it correctly, and from an industry perspective it is important to ensure there are enough supervisors available for provisional licence holders.
  • The idea of a ‘professional supervisor’ was discussed. It was noted that there may be risks where a supervisor who is not actively practising does not keep up to date with legislation. On the other hand it could be beneficial in a sense that the supervisor will have to work on a wide range of applications and keep themselves updated in any case; further there is no legislative or Code provision prohibiting an adviser from engaging in supervision only
  • Having professional indemnity insurance may be a useful requirement for supervisors.

What type of incentive would convince a full licence holder to become a supervisor?

  • TOIT Survey on supervision: many supervisors undertook the activity for altruistic reasons, in order to give back to the industry and help new entrants develop and grow
  • Many workplaces prefer to ‘grow their own people’
  • Currently supervision counts towards CPD
  • It would help if there were a supervision course and a steering group established whereby supervisors can support each other. Comradery and sharing of knowledge is important

Discussion on supervision fees

  • What is ‘fair and reasonable’ should be defined more clearly
  • A ‘remuneration survey’ could be undertaken
  • On the other hand, a set fee could discourage experienced advisers
  • The benefits of professional indemnity insurance was discussed

How many provisional licence holders should work under one supervisor

  • Currently if more than a total of four provisional licence holders will be working under one supervisor, the IAA will enquire whether the supervisor has capacity
  • There have been supervisors who are supervising more than four provisional licence holders, and this is considered on a case-by-case basis
  • There are many factors in play, such as how busy the supervisor is, how many clients the provisional licence holder has, etc.
  • Some participants thought supervisors should be limited to two or three provisional licence holders, others thought it should be decided on a case-by-case basis.

What should the entry qualification be: Courses 1-4 of the GDNZIA, or the full Diploma

  • Whether a new entrant is ready to practise after only completing the four courses depends on the adviser’s own previous experience, working arrangements, and available support network
  • Nothing stops a new entrant from completing the full Diploma before applying for a provisional licence. It is perhaps the safer option
  • It was noted that there may be financial or employment pressures to start practising right away
  • It was also noted that some students might struggle to pass the last four courses. TOIT to consider introducing a timeframe for completing the qualification

Further suggestions

  • Terms of supervision should be flexible
  • IAA should be more active in supporting advisers post-COVID.

Closure and next meeting

  • Next meeting to take place in 3 to 4 weeks. Exact date will be announced in advance
  • Simon thanked everyone for their contributions

The meeting ended just after 3pm