Posts Tagged ‘immigration adviser’

Immigration advisers – scaremongering for their own financial gain

September 13, 2011

Tammy BellBy 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.

Misrepresenting risk

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.

Protected migrants

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.

Examples

Here are some examples taken this week from immigration adviser websites:

1) “Did you know that up to 30 to 50% of non-agent assisted online and DIY applications FAIL?”

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.

Permanent Residence Applications
Exempt Advisers

(Click for enlargement)

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:
exempt people.

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!

2) “What the public do not have access to are the extensive Operational Manuals made available by the Immigration Services to migration consultants.”

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.

3) “At a recent meeting with Immigration New Zealand staff in Auckland one of the Branch Managers told us that 98% of Family Visa applications are incorrect, with more than half being rejected straight away because of this.”

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!

Summary

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!

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Migrants defeat bad immigration adviser

September 5, 2011

I am delighted to offer my congratulations to the Whiles-Clarry family, members of move2nz.com since June 2009, who have successfully used the Immigration Advisers Licensing legislation to have the license of a dishonest and incompetent immigration adviser cancelled.

Through their efforts and diligence they have helped protect other migrants from the same problems. Well done!

Read the full story
I have been following this case all the way through and present the whole story of this brave family’s fight in a full article on move2nz.com here spread over 6 pages.

In this article I have included a summary of this family’s fight, success and anger at the adviser’s claims.

Congratulations to the Immigration Advisers Authority
I bet a lot of the long term readers of move2nz are picking themselves off the floor and saying “WHAT!?” (as move2nz and I have a little ‘history’ with the IAA), but I am serious.

Congratulations are in order to both the IAA and Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal and I have sent my congratulations personally to Barry Smedts, Registrar of the IAA because of their part in this ruling.

Immigration Advisers

In 2009 new legislation was introduced to block anyone not licensed from providing immigration advice. The IAA act as a licensing office and police force, investigating complaints and passing serious cases to the Tribunal which acts as a court.

While some Immigration Advisers are excellent move2nz had collected dozens of horror stories. As a result we were very supportive of a system providing protection for migrants and somewhere for us to send these complaints.

However we have been critical of this system since its inception, like many immigration advisers, because the IAA appeared to provide no real protection for migrants.

Glen Standing
Glen Standing

What we had been waiting for was action to start weeding out the bad apples. Our congratulations are presented today because for the first time the system has done just that. A migrant has complained and as a result the adviser, Glen Standing of Golden Sands Immigration and Living New Zealand has been held to account.

The Tribunal has for the first time imposed serious penalties, and in addition to losing his immigration adviser’s license Standing has been directed to refund fees, pay compensation and penalties of just under $20,000.

This is the first real success story for the IAA and Tribunal, a major step forward in the fight to protect migrants against rogue advisers. As all of our concerns about the system being set up were valid and well-founded it’s only fair to offer congratulations to these departments when they get it right.

 


A common tale

Like many before them, everything went well with Golden Sands for the family until they arrived in New Zealand. Vulnerable and alone in a new country customer service from the company went downhill fast and the job search help they had paid for was almost nonexistent. In the end it took over 21 weeks for Stephen to get a job, costing the family thousands in lost income and accommodation.

Despite this Golden Sands started demanding the second half of the fee owed to them and threatened to withhold documents and a passport until the money was paid.

Christine telephoned the immigration department and discovered that almost all the immigration advice Standing had given her was wrong, meaning they had experienced months of delays and thousands in extra costs simply because of their adviser. They lodged a complaint with the IAA in September 2010.

The Ruling

A final decision was reached on 30th June 2011 ruling against Standing on all counts. The Tribunal found that he was in breach of the code of conduct all licensed immigration advisers need to comply with, with the Chairman described this as a “grave lapse from professional standards“. Standing was ordered to pay penalties of $2,000 and compensation, loss of income and a refund of fees to the family totalling $19,458.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. On August 18th Standing wrote to the Tribunal and the family stating that he was liquidating his company and so wouldn’t be able to pay the penalties and compensation! This appears to be incorrect as you’ll see in the full article.

Ruined by the Tribunal

The next day an article appeared in the Nelson Mail giving voice to Standing who claimed ‘I’ve been ruined by tribunal. The article contained factual errors and presented Standing as being forced to close his business, making his staff redundant, as a result of what he considered to be ‘despicable’ handling of the case.

However Standing’s framing of the situation appears to be misleading and incorrect as the Tribunal gave him the option of obtaining a provisional license to re-enter the immigration business under supervision.

Standing’s claim that he couldn’t continue operating as there are no other licensed advisers in Golden Bay to supervise him is at odds with the IAA’s supervision policy which states that an adviser can be supervised even by a licensed immigration adviser in another country:

So Standing could have applied to be supervised by someone outside Golden Bay and had no reason to close his business at all.

Summary

The IAA and Tribunal have removed one of the immigration advisers we have the most negative stories about. There has even been another ruling against Standing in which he was ordered to pay $1,500 to another migrant family had problems getting a refund.
Now you have an avenue to take if you encounter problems with a licensed immigration adviser make sure to lodge a complaint if you need the IAA’s help. It might take a while, but it’s always worth fighting your corner and now you have a fighting chance.

What have you done with Mike?
Before you start wondering who I am and what I’ve done with Mike, we still do have issues with the agressive way the IAA has dealt with blogs and move2nz, as well as their lack of understanding around what constitutes immigration advice (illegal for people like me without a license) and settlement advice and support (perfectly legal).

I am still fighting to force the IAA to repair the damage they did in attacking move2nz, a move which caused the cancellation of our UK Seminars and closure of our Migrant Centre. All I can legally say at this stage is that ‘settlement negotiations are being advanced through legal channels’. I’ll let you know what happens.