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Reference group minutes, 7 August 2018

Date: Tuesday, 7 August 2018, 10:15am – 3pm

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

Attendees:

Licensed Immigration Advisers – Jaqueline Chong (PWC, Auckland), Zinny Cheng (Working International Visas Ltd, Auckland), Harris Gu (TDA Immigration and Student Services, Auckland), Chetan Rudra (Cross Country Recruitment, Hamilton), Peter Ryan (Capital Immigration Services NZ Limited, Wellington), Matt Fistonich (PWC, Wellington, NZAIP), June Ranson (Woburn International, NZAMI), Samaria Thompson (Turbo Staff Ltd, Christchurch).

IAA/MBIE staff – Karla Flood (Acting Registrar of Immigration Advisers), Simon Thomas (Investigations Team Leader, IAA), Philip Anderson (Technical Team Leader, IAA), Jyoti Issar (Senior Investigator, IAA), Catherine Rosie (Senior Technical Adviser, IAA), Tom Ronaldson (Advisor Marketing, Corporate, Governance and Information, MBIE), Sara Kaur (Senior Business Administrator) (Minute- taker).

Guests – Dan Smidt (Education New Zealand, Wellington).

Apologies – Rob Perry (INZ), Su Choi (INZ), Pengbo Jiang (Bank of China, Auckland), Stephanie B. Feret (Fenix Visa and Immigration Consulting, Manila, Philippines).

Discussion

  1. Welcome
    1. Karla Flood, Acting Registrar of the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA), welcomed the reference group members. All members introduced themselves.
    2. The agenda:
      1. IAA updates
      2. Supervision
      3. IAA Communications initiatives
      4. Investigation Issues
      5. ENZRA
      6. Open Forum
  2. Authority updates
    1. Karla reported on current numbers as follows :
      1. There are currently 1084 licensed immigration advisers, with 73% onshore and 27% offshore.
      2. There are currently 225 provisional licence holders and 167 supervisors.
      3. The Authority has received 4 upgrade and 14 inspection licence applications since 1st July 2018.
      4. The Authority has received 8 complaints (compared to 9 this time last year), and 7 reports of offending so far this year since 1st July 2018.
      5. There are currently 36 complaints and 35 offence investigations on hand. This includes complaints and offence investigations received from previous financial years.
  3. Supervision
    1. Catherine reported the current supervision numbers as follows:
      1. There are currently 131 supervisors supervising 1 provisional licence holder.
      2. There are currently 22 supervisors supervising 2 provisional licence holders.
      3. There are currently 9 supervisors supervising 3 provisional licence holders.
      4. There are currently 4 supervisors supervising 4 provisional licence holders.
      5. There are currently 1 supervisor supervising 7 provisional licence holders, which is currently the maximum number of advisers a supervisor is supervising.
    2. Some members expressed concerns around the quality of supervision being provided by some supervisors and the lack of support to these provisional licence holders.
    3. Catherine noted that the supervision scheme is still relatively new and there had been some issues experienced.  Catherine welcomed feedback from advisers and provisional licence holders about supervision. She mentioned that it is difficult to take action without any information.
    4. There was mixed feedback in regards to distant supervision. Some advisers considered it impractical and ineffective. Whereas others found that it had worked quite well for them.
    5. Karla suggested formation of a supervision forum for the benefit of supervisors and was interested to know how IAA could help with this.
    6. There was discussion around the competency of some advisers before they became supervisors. It was   suggested that a supervisor should have been an adviser for a minimum period before being eligible to supervise. It was also suggested that they should have a good track record with INZ and an interest in training. 
    7. There was discussion that there ought to be mandatory CPD or a course which an adviser needs to undertake in order to supervise a provisional licence holder. It was also suggested that there could be an expression of interest for an adviser who is willing to supervise a provisional licence holder. This would ensure that the adviser has the right skills to become a supervisor. There was acknowledgement that there are a lot of good supervisors within the industry who could potentially supervise. 
    8. Catherine noted that there may be a need for a standardized process of supervision which defines the expectations from a supervisor as well as the experience that a provisional licence holder should get from supervision. There could be a supervision template supervision which clearly communicates what an ideal supervision experience should look like.
    9. Karla added that the Authority did not want to discourage supervision and that supervision could also be seen as a status. The Authority wants to encourage advisers to do supervision and do it properly. Te Ohomai is also doing its best to promote supervision and attract licensed immigration advisers to become supervisors.
    10. Karla was also interested to know if supervisors were finding that some provisional licence holders were not performing as expected. 
    11. Karla mentioned that Te Ohomai are proposing to change the content of one of the GDNZIA course - LAWS7016: Specialist Immigration Areas. They wish to include some new content on employer applications, such as Approval in Principle requests, Employer Accreditation applications and Labour Hire Employer Accreditation applications. These application types are not currently taught as part of the GDNZIA. The impact of including this new content would mean that the content on refugees would be reduced slightly. They wanted to get some feedback on this from the Reference Group members. The overall feedback was positive.
  4. IAA Communication Initiatives
    1. Tom gave an overview of the public awareness campaigns undertaken by The Authority in the year 2017-2018.
    2. The first campaign for the year was a repeat of the Indian social media campaign from the previous year. It was run in two stages and included some video content featuring Catherine Albiston addressing the viewers.  The campaign achieved good results and had nearly 40,000 visitors from India to the IAA website and interacting with its resources. This is something which will be focussed on this year as well.
    3. An adviser raised concerns regarding the effectiveness of the campaign as unlicensed advice still prevails in the Indian market, especially government accepting applications from unlicensed education agents.  
    4. Tom advised that The Authority is doing its best to spread awareness and educate the people against unlicensed advice, as well as encourage them to use licenced advisers if required. This year’s campaign will be targeting travel agents, as they play an important role in pointing people in the right direction, who are planning to go abroad.
    5.  Concerns were raised against INZ penalising the applicants instead of the unlicensed agents, by declining applications where unlicensed advice has been received.  There was discussion around managing offshore unlicensed advice.
    6. The second campaign was run in Philippines, with Catherine Albiston visiting the country and engaging with the POEA agents to spread awareness amongst them against unlicensed advice. A PR campaign was undertaken in which a PR agency was engaged, and stories relating to unlicensed advice were published in travel magazines as well as magazines targeting the travel agents. This ensured that the message was reaching out to the people through the relevant industry, which added weightage to it.  A lot of social media campaigning was also undertaken, where messages against unlicensed advice were published in newspapers and magazines. The campaign was a huge success with nearly 20,000 people from Philippines visiting our website and engaging with its resources.
    7. The third campaign of the year was a repeat of the international student’s campaign from the previous year. It was run within New Zealand and targeted towards university students in some of the major cities like Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.  It was relatively effective with nearly 2500 clicks to our website. 
    8. An adviser stated that very often, many offshore education agents make false promises to the students coming overseas to study. These students are been given unrealistic expectations, and often feel exploited when reality is different from what had been promised. This is quite damaging to the reputation of New Zealand and raises serious concerns. There was comprehensive discussion amongst the group regarding what can be done to overcome this situation, and one suggestion included compulsory licensing of the offshore education agents.
    9. Another awareness campaign targeted the Construction sector in New Zealand, specifically the employers, management team, directors, project managers, or potentially anyone involved with hiring of construction workers, to make them aware of their obligations towards using a licensed immigration adviser if immigration advice was required.
    10. The last campaign of the year was a social media campaign run in South America to promote awareness amongst the people regarding unlicensed advice.
    11. Tom mentioned that the 2018 -2019 communications strategy will focus on making the content on our website more engaging, as well as how we can generate value for the people visiting our website.
    12. Catherine suggested that rather than just making people aware against unlicensed advice, there should also be a focus on the positive relationship between an applicant and adviser especially in telling them how they can benefit from that relationship.  This needs to be done keeping in mind that the Authority is not promoting people to use an adviser, but if they require immigration advise how a licensed adviser can be beneficial.
    13. Tom thanked the group and found the discussion very insightful in developing the future communication strategies.
  5. Investigation Issues
    1. Simon elaborated on the investigation procedures and the timeliness targets for complaints and offences to the advisers. The timeliness target for complaints is 115 working days. Though there is no timeliness target for the offence investigations, the time taken for each investigation depends on the severity of the offence, as well as other factors like current judicial system, witness availability, number of witnesses and their location etc.
    2. There was a discussion regarding the delay in processing the complaints. Simon noted that the delay can be attributed to several factors including delay from the Tribunal to provide a decision, staff movement, and most importantly the delay from the advisers in providing the client files or response to the AGL, etc. which ultimately contributes to the process.
    3. Some advisers expressed concerns around the unlicensed advice prevailing in the offshore market. Jyoti explained that individuals providing advice on student visas offsore are exempt from the requirement to be licensed, However, , providing advice on any other visa type clearly requires the adviser to be licensed. INZ also has an obligation under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act to refuse a visa application put forward by an unlicensed immigration adviser. Simon acknowledged the limitation in prosecuting the offenders offshore, but ensured that a constant cautioning in the form of a warning letter or phone call is made to the unlicensed advisers to remind them of the consequences of breaching the Act.
    4. There was a discussion around the complaints received by INZ about an adviser from time to time. Simon elaborated on the process and noted these constitute nearly 10% of the current complaints. We encourage INZ to bring forward the matters where there is a pattern of poor behaviour noted or an adviser has demonstrated incompetency in handling the visa applications. These complaints would need to be supported by evidence..
    5. Concern was raised on the impact on LIAs of the recent structural changes within INZ. An adviser noted that the purpose of the position of relationship managers is not very clear as they no longer deal with adviser escalations, complaints, etc.. There is limited information on whether the relationship managers should be expected to act as a liaison between and INZ and the LIAs.
    6. Karla noted that it will be helpful to have a discussion around the changes within INZ and what it means for the advisers. This topic will be incorporated in the agenda for the reference group meeting in October.
    7. An adviser highlighted a recent trend where it was observed that visa applicants have been threatening advisers that a complaint would be laid against them if they did not meet their expectations; often pushing them to provide a refund.. The anxiety of going through the complaints process often prompts the adviser to refund the fees, even though they have exhibited competence in dealing with the application. It was noted that though there is a complaints procedure on the IAA website directing the public to make a complaint against an adviser; there is a need to develop some guidelines for advisers against whom a complaint has been made. There is a need to emphasise on publicizing the enforcement policy. Simon assured that all complaints go through a vigorous review before a decision to forward them to the Tribunal is made.
    8. There was a comprehensive discussion regarding what an LIA should do if they see poor quality work undertaken by another LIA. Simon noted that it should be bought to the immediate attention of the Authority, with evidence to back up the allegations.
    9. An adviser was interested to know if the Authority has so far received any complaint against the conduct of the supervisor or the provisional licence holder. Simon noted that no complaint has been received against a supervisor. However, the supervision scheme is still relatively new and the IAA does anticipate some complaints in the future.
    10. There was a discussion around the process of offence investigations and the challenges involved around it. Jyoti acknowledged that the biggest challenge is getting the witnesses to come forward to make a statement to the IAA and testify in the court. Witness have to be assured that IAA is operationally separate from INZ and assting the IAA with its enquiries will not affect their visa status.  The IAA Authority is also undertaking proactive investigations and campaigns to target and identify unlicensed offenders in the market and promote awareness against the consequences of unlicensed advice.
  6. Open Forum
    1. Karla asked for feedback from the members regarding the reference group. The general feedback was very positive and valuable.
    2. Karla welcomed ideas and suggestions for the agenda items for next reference group meeting scheduled in October. It was noted that it will be good to have a feedback session at the beginning of each meeting, to see what actions may have been taken on the suggestions from the previous meeting.
    3. An adviser further raised concern regarding the issue of unlicensed advice offshore and noted that it needs to be addressed at the earliest. Karla proposed to invite someone from the Policy Team at MBIE for the October meeting, in order to discuss this; as well as any other emerging issues in the industry and what can be done about them.  
  7. ENZRA
    1. Dan Smidt from Education New Zealand (ENZ) gave a Presentation on the current ENZRA programme undertaken by them.
      View the Presentation [PDF, 823 KB]
    2.  Around 50 % of international students studying in New Zealand engage with an agent in some way or the other. However the intensity of the agent involvement depends on the country the student is applying from.
    3. ENZ seeks to further engage with high quality agents to not only assist with bringing quality students to NZ, but also shaping the image of New Zealand as an education destination, influencing student welfare and experience, as well as diversifying the student spread in line with the government’s regional policy.
    4. New Zealand is one of the two countries in the world to have an International Student Welfare Strategy that was initiated in 2017. It focuses on ensuring the students are having great experience while their stay in New Zealand, which includes access to economic wellbeing, good quality of education, health and well-being as well as feeling welcomed and a part of the society.
    5. ENZ plays an important role in helping education agents around the world by connecting them to various educational providers in NZ, as well as endeavour to strength the relationship between them. ENZ provides agents training courses via the internet, organise training workshops as well as currently shaping an exclusive agent training programme that will be available towards the end of the year. ENZ connect the agents to the ENZRA programme, which is a government incentive scheme which determines the ways the agents act and operate in the market. ENZ also endeavours to assist the government in shaping the future education strategy.
    6. The ENZRA programme was established in 2014 and aims to increase engagement and recognition with high-quality education agencies who have demonstrated a commitment to promoting New Zealand and are successfully placing students at education providers. In order to retain the ENZRA status, these agents are required to meet a set of core objectives on an annual basis.
    7. Karla suggested inviting someone from the Auckland Agency Group for the next Reference Group Meeting in October.
  8. Karla thanked all members for participating and found the discussion quite valuable.

 

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