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Disciplining Immigration Consultants

The extension of the licensing regime to cover offshore immigration consultants (or advisers) is a move that would hopefully keep malpractices, extortion and other ills of immigration out of the system. ‘The Immigration Advisors’ Licensing Act’ became a ‘Complete Statute’ on May 4, when it obliged only consultants (anywhere in the world) licensed by the ‘Immigration Advisors Authority’ of New Zealand to deal with Immigration New Zealand.

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.

While 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.

The licensing regime would root out the weeds and ensure that only qualified professionals remain the field. Previously, anyone could set up business as an immigration adviser and many people had done so without any significant expertise or experience in the field.

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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