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Fair and reasonable fees

Clause 20(a):

A licensed immigration adviser must:

  1. ensure that any fees charged are fair and reasonable in the circumstances

Advisers should be able to justify the fees they have charged.

Advisers who are employees of a company are still responsible for ensuring that any fees charged are fair and reasonable in the circumstances. Advisers who are employees should discuss this clause with their employer.

Practice tips for setting fair and reasonable fees

Influences on fees

There a number of factors to take into account when setting fees. Some factors are competing which can act to drive fees higher or lower.

Influences on higher or lower fees might include:

  • the level of qualification or experience of the adviser
  • the ease, specific difficulties or complexities of a particular application
  • the client having partly completed work relating to the immigration matter
  • the desire to assist in an unusual circumstance
  • the desire to enter a particular market
  • the time required to be spent on the case
  • the costs associated with operating the business or practice
  • the desire of the client for high personal levels of service.
Fixed fee or hourly rate?

Many new advisers wonder whether professional fees should be charged on a fixed fee basis or at an hourly rate. There is no right or wrong answer to that question.

Calculating fees

An important first step for any adviser operating their own business is to understand the costs of running their business by having a clear budget.

Visit www.business.govt.nz(external link) for help with budgeting.

The table below outlines one way in which an adviser could calculate fees for defined services, ensuring that they are fair and reasonable. This is not the only way in which fees can be calculated and is intended as guidance only.

Possible steps


Work out your budget

For example, take into account recovery of:

  • labour costs (salaries for the adviser and staff)
  • practice overheads (i.e. fixed costs such as rent and insurance)
  • the costs associated with maintaining a professional library, registration, and continuing professional development
  • a mark-up for profit, to recognise the fact that you are in business.

Calculate average fees for services frequently provided

Identify your forecasted number and type of clients. Work out the fixed fees required for particular services to meet the costs of your budget, taking into account the influences on higher or lower fees listed above.

Prepare a budget for each new assignment

Before giving potential clients a quotation for services consider if the tasks relate to one of your calculated fixed fees.

If a fixed fee is not appropriate, take into account the service to be provided and the influences on higher or lower fees listed above.

Calculate the proposed client fee

Set out the total fee to be quoted.


Consider the resulting fees, and ask:

  • Are the proposed fees fair to the client?
  • Has the work been planned to be undertaken as efficiently as possible?
  • Do the resulting fees represent value to the client?
  • Having paid these fees, is the client likely to recommend the adviser’s services to others?

Not unnecessarily increasing fees

Clause 20(b):

A licensed immigration adviser must:

  1. work in a manner that does not unnecessarily increase fees

Where an adviser is following the Code and pays careful attention to how they set fees they should not find themselves in a situation where fees are unnecessarily increased, for example, through poor time management or rework.

Changes to fees

Clause 20(c):

A licensed immigration adviser must:

  1. inform the client of any additional fees, or changes to previously agreed fees, and ensure these are recorded and agreed to in writing

In some situations, a client’s case may involve additional costs and complexities that neither the adviser nor the client was aware of at the time the written agreement was entered into. If this is the case, then under clause 20(c), the adviser must obtain the client’s agreement in writing to any additional fees, or changes to those previously agreed, as soon as the adviser knows about them.

What has changed compared to the 2010 Code?

2010 Code – required advisers to obtain agreement in writing to any material increase in costs as soon as the increase was known to the adviser

2014 Code – requires advisers to inform the client of any additional fees, or changes to previously agreed fees, and ensure these are recorded and agreed to in writing.