New law shuts the door on shoddy agents

You may have been a victim of deception, extortion and fraud perpetrated by an immigration consultant or agent but the good news is that such persons are now a thing of the past.

The doors of immigration are permanently shut for shoddy agents; at least those in the game have to be licensed and can be brought to justice quickly, unlike the previous regime in which some agents overtly flaunted and misused the system, leaving thousands of potential migrants in the lurch.

Registrar of Immigration Advisors Barry Smedts admitted that system inadequacies of the past had allowed many unscrupulous agents to target innocent and vulnerable clients.

“Many migrants have horror stories of bad experiences at the hands of immigration “consultants” in the days before licensing, some of who guaranteed the migrant a successful outcome, pocketed the migrant’s money, and were never heard from again.

“While there were many reputable advisers before licensing became law, migrants had no way of knowing who was trustworthy,” he said.

With no proper monitoring system in place, many consultants ran amuck as potential migrants and other clients helplessly watched themselves being swindled and misled.

“Not anymore,” Mr Smedts said.

Professional Standards

“Under the new system, advisers would be granted a licence only after they have successfully demonstrated their knowledge of the New Zealand law and policy and have proved that they have the requisite professional and ethical standards to perform the role.

“Those who do not meet the standards do not belong to the profession,” he said.

The system, with all its attendant rules and regulations apply with equal force to overseas advisors as well.

All immigration advisors are required by law to prominently display the Certificate of License in their premises, inform clients of their rights and responsibilities and their recourse to complaints if there is a need.

The licensing regime obliges advisers to be transparent and accountable in their dealing, hitherto absent somewhat notoriously.

Professional Development

Mr Smedts said immigration advisers were also obliged to complete 20 hours of “Continuing Professional Development (CPD) every year.”

“Such CPD must cover aspects of the adviser’s immigration business which would benefit from increased knowledge. While we leave the choice of CPD activities up to each individual adviser, they must provide evidence that the activities they have chosen are directly linked to one of the seven competency standards that licensed immigration advisers must meet,” he said.

The Immigration Advisers Authority, established three years ago as an independent body, encourages advisers to enhance their professional qualifications and service delivery.

But it does not run CPD activities but encourages all licensed advisers to ensure they remain up to date with immigration instructions, and have well developed, professional and ethical business practices.

“Anyone looking for immigration advice wants the reassurance that they are dealing with a professional. Since the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act became law, people giving immigration advice about New Zealand have needed to be either licensed or exempt, no matter where they are in the world,” Mr Smedts said.

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