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Unlicensed immigration adviser sentenced to home detention

Timothy Joseph Spooner has been sentenced to 4 months home detention and ordered to pay $7050 reparation to victims following his guilty plea in May to five charges laid by the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) for providing advice to immigrants when neither licensed nor exempt.

The charges related to advice on student, visitor, work, and resident visa applications as well as advising one of his victims in respect of an appeal to the Immigration & Protection Tribunal.

The charges include four representative counts of providing immigration advice without being licensed or exempt, and one representative charge of asking for or receiving a fee.

IAA is a regulatory body with the purpose of promoting and protecting the interests of people receiving New Zealand immigration advice. It is compulsory for anyone, anywhere in the world, giving immigration advice about New Zealand to be licensed, unless they fall into one of the exempt categories outlined in the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007. Mr Spooner never applied for an immigration adviser’s licence and was not exempt from being licensed.

Registrar of Immigration Advisers, Andrew Galloway, says this type of knowingly repeated offending is not only unacceptable but unlawful and will not be tolerated.

“Mr Spooner was clearly advised on a number of occasions his obligation to be licensed under the Act. He acknowledged that he intended to become licensed and despite repeated reminders, a formal interview, caution and warning and plenty of advice from the IAA over a long period of time; he failed to meet the requirements of the Act.”

Mr Spooner’s clients were migrants and international students hoping to live and study in New Zealand. He told his clients he had helped several people with their visas and he knew immigration processes and regulations. He told one victim to lie to authorities by saying he had only assisted in filling the visa application forms and that he had not provided immigration advice. The court heard another victim was specifically asked to cross out sections on the form that asked for details of any immigration adviser, or person assisting the applicant.

“This is an example of someone who has taken advantage of vulnerable migrants, particularly, in the Thai and Cambodian community. The consequence of Mr Spooner providing unlicensed advice to one of these victims was particularly significant, as it has led to that person no longer being able to reside in New Zealand,” says Mr Galloway.

The Judge reviewed the victim impact statements and noted during sentencing that one of the victims who received advice described the panic and fear they felt once they realised that Mr Spooner was not licensed. This led to feelings of shame and embarrassment especially within the victim’s own family and fears of possible repercussions and safety.

“This emphasises the severity of the impact people giving unlicensed immigration advice can have on the consumers of immigration advice in addition to potential harm to New Zealand’s international reputation.

“Through our work, the IAA continue to raise awareness that this type of offending can cause significant stress and problems for visa applicants,” says Mr Galloway. “If people need help with an immigration matter, they should only use a licensed immigration adviser or an exempt person.”

The IAA investigate complaints made by any person about unlicensed immigration advice. Individuals found breaking the law can face up to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

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

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