Posts Tagged ‘immigration advisers authority’

A chilling comment on licensing

March 7, 2015

Reading the following sentence, attributed to Lyn Sparks of Business Immigration Ltd in a news article today put chills down my spine:

“We get licensed every year don’t we”

Mr Sparks was apparently replying to questions about his activities following complaints lodged by 66 of his clients that he had breached the strict rules licensed immigration advisers must adhere to. His implication appears to be that he must be acting properly because he is licensed each year by the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA).

The article explains:

All workers have similar complaints – primarily that they were charged fees of up to $15,000 for a job in New Zealand through Business Immigration and its overseas agents. Many took out loans in the Philippines to cover the fees, and were paying between 40 per cent and 50 per cent annual interest.

source

The reason I find this comment attributed to Mr Sparks chilling is that he appears to be using the status afforded by a poorly implemented but well-meaning licensing regime to prey on migrants.

This comment of course is entirely misleading and highlights deep problems with the licensing of immigration advisers which has dogged the system since its introduction in 2009 such as:

  1. Protection for consumers only applies to immigration services
    Section 44 of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 only allows the IAA to accept complaints against advisers regarding “provision of immigration advice”. While you might expect advisers to be held to account for any actions as a professional that’s not the case at all. Advisers getting up to no good in any other area – for example recruitment – have nothing to fear from the IAA as any complaint will be rejected.

    History has shown that the IAA will only act (for example to take away a licence) if the individual is convicted of a crime under another piece of legislation. This issue was raised back in 2009 but requires a change in the law and nothing has happened about this.As a result the actions of advisers charging for job search services are not covered at all by the licensing rules with few people realising this, creating opportunities for the unscrupulous.

  2. No test of competence
    While many long-standing advisers are highly competent this competence, effectively assured by licensing, has never actually been tested. When licensing was introduced in 2009 advisers working in the industry were required only to show three case files (which they picked) to be assessed by IAA staff to confirm the adviser’s competence. This alone is a poor test and I understand the IAA staff assessing these applications had no training or background in immigration.

    From there to renew their license each year advisers only had to provide one case file (which again they picked) to be assessed by the same IAA staff. Interestingly while this process did check business systems it stopped checking prices charged some time ago following pressure from long-standing advisers who did not appreciate being questioned in this regard.

    It wasn’t until 2012 that a level 7 qualification was introduced to provide a test of competence completed to any defined standard, however existing advisers did not have to sit this. Thankfully the IAA is now moving towards a system of randomly checking the work of advisers based on the records of the immigration department. This is excellent as it should identify problems and patterns, but it still will not spot issues like advisers charging excessive fees as suggested in this case.

It will be interesting to see what happens with this story. Mr Sparks has faced complaints and penalties before but is still operating. The IAA has indicated there has been insufficient evidence to take up this case but public awareness of this problem may force their hand.

Under this is the truth that the IAA can only investigate and punish for actions relating purely to the provision of immigration advice and in the past has taken a very narrow view of this, potentially allowing bad advisers to escape punishment as a result.

A strong and robust IAA is badly needed but currently it looks weak and indecisive. Let’s see what is done following these complaints.

Mike Bell

Migrant advocate | licensed 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!