Licensing regime shuts out shonky consultants

The Licensing regime that obliges all immigration consultants dealing with Immigration New Zealand to have a valid licence issued by the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) has proved effective, according to a Survey.

The Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 covering immigration consultants and advisers operating in New Zealand has been in force from May 4, 2009. It became effective for offshore immigration advisers from May 4, 2010.

Lawyers rendering immigration services are exempt from the requirement.

All licensed advisers have to follow a code of conduct that requires them to inform clients of their rules and regulations in force, their eligibility to apply for a service and other relevant information.

Applicants or those authorised to deal on their behalf (such as relatives, associates, legal personnel or friends) now have the recourse to justice, with their complaints handled by an independent authority.

Registrar of Immigration Advisers Barry Smedts said that about 75% of the participants in the Survey said they were satisfied with the services received from licensed immigration advisers, accounting for an increase of 12% over the Survey conducted last year.

“The Survey found that only 3% of the respondents had sought the services of unlicensed immigration advisers,” he said.

Experts said that the number of cases involving rogue immigration consultants who defraud gullible public has been on the increase but the trend can now be reversed with the licensed consultants accountable to the New Zealand Government and clients through a transparent system of operation.

Arguably, People of Indian origin are the most common victims since lack of experience, the urge to seek permanent residence status and facilitate migration of the members of the immediate family are among the factors that prompt them to rush to the nearest immigration consultant. In many cases, such people are quickly relieved of their hard-earned money and left in the lurch.

Potential immigrants who arrive here on visit visas or those entering the country on other types of status (refugees for instance) apparently look up the yellow pages of the phone book and choose a consultant at random and entrust the job of processing their applications. In other cases, those with permanent residence status are keen to bring their family members and seek the advice of such consultants. That is when the trouble starts and complaints begin to flow.

Well established and reputed consultants not only offer professional and genuine advice but also account for a high success rate in terms of enabling applicants to achieve their objective of migrating to New Zealand.

But the number of rogue consultants who mislead and ripped off unsuspecting residents should also be accounted for, although the new statute does not cover the complaints of past victims.

The need for a qualified and experienced immigration consultant cannot be overemphasised but the choice of a firm that matches promise by performance is even more important. Consultants should be transparent in their dealings. They should not mislead, give false hopes or overcharge clients. They should also understand the anxiety of applicants.

Advisers would now have to prove their knowledge and experience in immigration work by meeting a range of competency standards to obtain a license. In addition, Advisers must meet an English standard, be committed to ongoing professional development and adhere to a code of conduct.

We hope the stringent standards required by the new regime would keep a number of dishonest people and part-time operators out of the industry.

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