08 July 2008
NZ regulates immigration advisors with licensing laws
The New Zealand Government’s new law that requires New Zealand immigration advisors to obtain a licence by 4 May 2009 came into practice yesterday.
The first licence for an immigration advisor in New Zealand was presented to Auckland-based Tony Tse by the Registrar of Immigration Advisors, Barry Smedts. Mr Smedts said the previously unregulated immigration industry created an unfair environment for would-be migrants, who could be given advice about migration from untrained or unethical consultants.
"While this is an important occasion for Tony, personally, it is also important for the professionalism and credibility of the immigration advice industry and for New Zealand’s international standing as a migrant destination," he said.
The new law requires New Zealand migration consultants to obtain a licence before giving migration advice. Those consultants giving advice offshore will be granted another year’s leeway, until May 2010. Some advisors will remain exempt from the law, such as foreign diplomats and their consular staff or lawyers. The changes are part of the Immigration Licensing Act 2007, and are designed to regulate the migration industry in New Zealand and protect the rights of people emigrating to New Zealand.
The Immigration Advisors Authority will make a list of licensed advisors available on their website. The website will also facilitate a complaints procedure for migrants who feel an advisor did not comply with the Authority’s Code of Conduct. The Authority will then forward complaints to an independent Immigration Advisors Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal, if necessary. For unlicensed offenders, penalties can reach up to seven years imprisonment, fines up to $100,000, and/or court-ordered reparation payments. For licensed offenders, penalties can reach up to two years imprisonment and/or fines of up to $10,000.
Under the new law, licenses will have to be renewed annually. They will also be awarded to an individual, and not a business, and therefore cannot be passed on to another person.
"Now, with the Immigration Advisors Authority in place and managing the licensing process, we have a system in place which not only sets new standards of professionalism for advisors and protects vulnerable migrants, but also enhances the reputation of the industry," Mr Smedt added.
The New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment (NZAMI) is another regulatory board which is designed to monitor immigration policies and maintain the integrity of the industry. The NZAMI is an independent non-profit organisation comprised of migration consultants, local government authorities, accounting practices, investment advisors, law firms and financial institutions. Migrants are recommended to seek out migration advisors who are registered members of the NZAMI so they may benefit from the Association’s code of ethics.
Article by Jessica Bird, New Zealand Visa Bureau.
The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an NZAMI registered and independent consulting company specialising in helping people emigrate to New Zealand.