INZ Partnership undermines migrants’ interest

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is proposing a partnership with Immigration Advisors and Lawyers. On the surface, this proposal would seem to be a means to facilitate the prompt and competent processing of visa applications.

The reality however is that INZ is developing a scheme which would effectively silence and buy the compliance of Advisors, ensuring that they no longer argue effectively on behalf of their own clients.

INZ is offering benefits to Advisors and Lawyers who become Trusted Partners. These benefits include processing times, access to specialists within INZ and documentation requirements.

High Approval Rate

The catch however is that the Trusted Partners must agree to regular INZ audits and, most significantly, maintain 90% approval rate.

What this means therefore is that if an Advisor or Lawyer signs up to become a Trusted Partner, they must maintain 90% approval rate.

If a new client walks into their office whose case is marginal, facing extreme difficulties and desperately requires dedicated and aggressive advocacy on their behalf, then the Advisor or Lawyer is unlikely to take on that client as a decline would go against their approval record and they may lose their Trusted Partner status.

Further, if INZ raises concerns after an application has been lodged, the Advisor or Lawyer may then advise their client to withdraw the application rather than fight the case, simply to preserve their 90% approval rate.

Advisors and lawyers who sign up to be Trusted Partners are effectively saying that their own business interests are more important to them than advocating behalf of their clients.

The clients of Trusted Partner Advisors should know therefore that their Advisor’s priority is maintaining the cozy friendship with INZ, and not the best interest of their client.

Hard questions

When a Trusted Partner Advisor gives advice to a client to withdraw their application or to not even bother lodging an application, then this should immediately raise the obvious question as to why is this advice being given. Is it being given in the client’s best interest or simply to protect the Trusted Partner status of that Advisor?

In my opinion, it is unlikely that any lawyer will be able to become Trusted Partners with INZ whilst also meeting their ethical obligations towards their clients.

Lawyers’ dilemma

Lawyers have an obligation to act in the best interest of their clients, to provide accurate legal advice and most importantly to take on any case, provide representation to any client who requires assistance and argue effectively on behalf of any client, however weak or vulnerable their position may be.

By adhering to this ethical obligation however, lawyers will of course sacrifice their ability to become Trusted Partners. Many marginal applicants are declined.

Lawyers will often continue to advocate on a client’s behalf for years, often only obtaining a successful result some after numerous declines. All of these declines will go on record for that lawyer and will inhibit their ability to become a Trusted Partner with INZ.

Disservice to clients

In order to obtain Trusted Partner status therefore Advisors and Lawyers must sacrifice their ethical obligations towards their clients, put INZ’s interest before that of their client, put their own monetary interests before those of their client and take all of these matters into consideration before advising clients who are the ones, after all, paying the bills.

If INZ insist on this 90% approval rate and audits of clients files I for one will not be applying to be a Trusted Partner. I will continue to advocate on behalf of my clients and make their best interests my priority.

I expect that most of my Lawyer colleagues will do the same.

Official scam

All clients should ask their Advisor or Lawyer whose best interest are a priority- the client or INZ?

This is a scam, pure and simple. It is nothing more than an attempt to buy the meek compliance of Advisors wishing to line their own pockets and an insult to the ethical beliefs of all those who entered into this profession to advocate for justice on behalf of the vulnerable.

Alastair McClymont is Principal of McClymont & Associates (Barrister & Solicitors) located at (Level 1), 2 Owens Road, Epsom. Phone (09) 6233344; Email: amcclymont@amlaw.co.nz

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