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All immigration advisers must now be licensed

From today, all advisers providing advice about New Zealand immigration matters must be licensed unless they are exempt, no matter where in the world they provide that advice.

The introduction of mandatory offshore licensing for people providing immigration advice about New Zealand means there is greater protection for migrants, Registrar of Immigration Advisers Barry Smedts said today.

“Immigration adviser applicants are asked to complete a rigorous, evidence-based assessment process before I am satisfied that they meet the standard required of a licensed adviser.  The assessment is based around seven core competencies which reflect the professional standard we expect of them,” Mr Smedts said.

The competencies are: relevant qualifications; knowledge of immigration advisers licensing scheme; knowledge of immigration law and policy in New Zealand; ability to lodge applications and appeals; English language proficiency; professional, ethical and responsible business practices; and maintenance of professional development activities.

“One of the primary motivators for introducing a mandatory licensing regime in New Zealand was to promote and protect the interests of migrants to New Zealand and to ensure they have confidence in the standard of immigration advice they receive. 

“Licensed advisers based offshore are required to abide by the code of conduct in the same way that licensed advisers in New Zealand are. It is important to remember that the code has been set according to what is expected in engaging with the New Zealand immigration system.  People who cannot meet those standards for any reason, have no business in offering services related to New Zealand’s immigration system.

“If advisers can’t meet the professional and ethical standards set by the New Zealand government, they don’t belong in this industry.”

All licensed advisers must display the Licensed Advisers Code of Conduct in a prominent place at their place of business.  Clients should also ask to see their adviser’s individual wallet card ID.  Penalties for breaches of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act include up to seven years imprisonment and/or fines up to $NZ100,000 for unlicensed advisers.

There are currently 414 licensed immigration advisers, of which 132 are based outside New Zealand. 

“Many people have asked us how we will enforce licensing offshore,” Mr Smedts said. 

“Immigration New Zealand no longer accepts applications from advisers unless they are licensed or exempt.  This has been the message that we have given offshore advisers from the beginning of our communication with them.

“Migrants themselves are also a powerful tool in encouraging adviser licensing.  We will clearly communicate with potential migrants around the world through our website, Immigration New Zealand branches worldwide, and increased presence of licensed advisers, the importance of using an adviser who is licensed or exempt.  We will also clearly communicate how migrants can make a complaint against their adviser, whether licensed or unlicensed,” Mr Smedts said.

The Authority will investigate all complaints about licensed advisers, no matter where they are, and all complaints are forwarded to the Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal, to determine.  Unlicensed adviser activity is an offence, whether in or outside New Zealand.

“We are already starting to see the benefits of licensing.  Migrants can have confidence in their licensed advisers, knowing there is the opportunity for redress if problems arise, and we see an increased level of interest in professional upskilling from licensed advisers,” Mr Smedts said.

 

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