By Tammy Bell
move2nz expert on Settlement and migration
Recently I have been researching Immigration Advisers, the number of migrants using them and how they promote their services. What I have seen has seriously worried me, prompting me to write this special report.
What I am concerned to see on many licensed immigration adviser’s websites are statements literally scaremongering for financial gain.
One of the main reasons move2nz was set up was to ensure migrants had good unbiased information from a source which didn’t have a commercial interest in them. This article is intended to stop unethical businesses pulling the wool over your eyes.
Immigration adviser licensing was introduced in May 2008 to provide protection for vulnerable migrants against fraudulent, corrupt and unethical advisers. The Immigration Advisers Authority was created to license and police advisers and as part of this introduced a Code of Conduct for licensed advisers.
Now licensed advisers know about this and the IAA has been reminding them of their responsibilities – as recently as July this year sent out a reminder to all advisers:
“that a licensed adviser must not, in a false, fraudulent or deceptive manner, misrepresent or promote himself or herself, or his or her company.
“To ensure that you meet your obligations under the code, you should regularly review your advertising and company website to ensure that the information is up to date and accurate.”
What my research shows is that this message is not getting through to some licensed advisers who appear to be actively misleading potential clients to create fear and increase business.
Here are some examples taken this week from immigration adviser websites:
Wrong – in 2010/11 only 13.5 percent of non-agent assisted DIY applications failed and in 2009/10 it was just 12 percent. See below how this compares to agent assisted applications, the results might surprise you.
- Overall, 47,931 applications were lodged;
- Using a licensed adviser:
- 10,394 of applications used a licensed adviser (21.7%);
- 85.5% of those were successful;
- Not using an agent:
- 32,058 of applications did not use an agent (66.9%);
- 86.5% of those were successful.
So last year most people (across all streams) entered their application without the help of an agent and this group had the highest rate of success.
Now to be fair many licensed advisers specialise in dealing with complex and difficult cases and the success rate of simple cases will always be higher than for the really difficult ones. However this does raise questions about many advisers who claim a 97% or better success rate.
It’s pretty worrying for licensed advisers to claim a success rate that high because either they are lying or some other licensed advisers have success rates much lower than for DIY cases!
One of the issues which has been highlighted through this research is that there is another group with a much lower success rate than either DIY applicants or those using an adviser:
These include among others family members, lawyers, MPs and Citizen’s Advice staff. Nearly 1 in five of these applications (19.5% in 2010/11) failed and that is something that needs looking into!
Wrong – the Immigration department’s Operations Manual is freely available to all, you can search through it here, but you might not know that without sources of information like move2nz.
I can’t comment on what was said in the meeting, but these details are clearly wrong as in 2010/11 over 92 percent of all applications lodged in the Family Category were approved!
- Overall, 10,352 applications were made in the family category
- Using a licensed adviser:
- 1,288 of applications used a licensed adviser (12.4%)
- 92% of those were successful
- Not using an agent:
- 8,210 of applications did not use an agent (79.3%)
- 93.8% of those were successful
Again, the majority of applicants did not use a licensed adviser and those not using an adviser had a higher rate of success.
My reply to the claims being made by these advisers (and please excuse my language) is “Total BOLLOCKS”.
Getting to the truth
Searching through immigration statistics is not for everyone, but it’s something Mike and I have got used to and now do a lot. I hope what we have discovered – that some licensed immigration advisors create a false impression of your chances of a successful application to line their own pockets – will give you food for thought before parting with your hard earned cash.
Now I have to reiterate that not all licensed advisers make false claims. In my opinion there are good ones out there and on complex cases (e.g. business visas, instances where applicants have a weakness in their application that needs to be argued and situations where the immigration department has made a ruling you disagree with) it really pays to have a professional fighting your corner.
The vast majority of applicants however have simple applications – you either qualify or you don’t. Apart from checking with a professional if you are worried about something in my opinion very few of these applicants benefit from using a professional adviser as confirmed in official government statistics.
Making a difference: what can we do about this??
Seeing this rubbish being flouted on advisers websites Mike and I really wanted to do something about it – move2nz after all is about making a difference. So Mike wrote to the IAA on Sunday (11th September) to ask about this problem, worried that if licensed advisers got caught doing this they would just get a slap on the wrist and be told to correct it.
We were impressed to get a fast and clear reply back the following day confirming:
“If you have concerns about a licensed adviser and consider that they are misrepresenting themselves, their business, their clients immigration opportunities or NZ’s immigration requirements then this may be a breach of the Code of Conduct and grounds for a complaint to be referred to the Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal.”
The email confirmed that the IAA do not mediate in matters like this, instead the IAA refer cases to the Disciplinary Tribunal which acts like a court to assess the problem and if necessary punish the adviser. This is a much better situation than we expected.
Following a link kindly provided by the IAA we confirmed that in fact one case has already been heard by the Tribunal. Deng, a licensed adviser, falsely claimed she had a Master of Business Administration Degree. The Adviser was found guilty of a breach of the code of conduct, her license was cancelled and she was ordered to pay $1,500.
Now this is a real result and something we would like to see more of!
The bad news is that we have uncovered licensed immigration advisers misleading the public to build fear in order to raise profits.
The good news is that we have also come to realise that there are laws in place to stop this.
You can make a difference and so can we. If you see a licensed adviser making a claim you know (or believe) to be false you know what to do – make a complaint to the IAA (just fill in the form here) and take the unethical advisers out of the industry.
I’ll be putting together complaints on all my examples (and other sites I picked up as part of my research) as soon as our September newsletter is sent out!