Immigration advisers from New Zealand have been visiting the Philippines to warn would be expats to beware of unlicensed migration officers operating illegally.
New Zealand is a popular destination for Filipinos to work, live, study and visa and it one of the top five nationalities applying for visas.
The Registrar of the New Zealand Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) Catherine Albiston has been in the country to raise awareness of the importance of only using licensed or exempt advisers when seeking New Zealand immigration advice.
She has visited Manila and Cebu as part of a campaign to increase awareness in Filipino communities of the IAA’s licensed adviser register and list of exempt persons, and the risks associated with using unlicensed advisers.
‘Unfortunately there are people who operate unlawfully and provide advice without a licence, which can result in a distressing situation for the visa applicant and their family,’ she said.
She explained that the IAA has a register of licensed advisers on its website and while there is no requirement for New Zealand visa applicants to use an immigration adviser, however if they need help then only a licensed immigration adviser or exempt person can assist.
Exempt persons include those working for Immigration New Zealand, Citizens Advice Bureau, Community Law Centres, and current New Zealand lawyers.
‘The aim of the IAA is to ensure people looking to come to New Zealand, or applying for a further visa once here, are aware that if they need help when applying for a visa they must get advice from the right person, and what their options are to get this advice,’ Albiston pointed out.
‘People who are not licensed or exempt, including POEA agencies, can share publicly available information, but cannot provide immigration advice. Visa applicants can use our checklist before they choose who provides them with advice,’ she added.
The IAA is responsible for issuing licences to advisers and handling complaints about poor immigration advice. A person’s immigration status will not be affected by contacting the IAA.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that an Auckland woman has been fined $7,000 after an IAA investigation into her history of providing immigration advice through a radio broadcast programme without a licence.
Alison Yang, also known as Jenny Fan and Xixia Fan, of Sea Consultants and Investments Limited was convicted as a result of charges filed by the IAA for providing immigration advice when she was neither licensed, nor exempt from the requirement to hold a licence. The second charge related to holding herself out as an immigration adviser, knowing she was not licensed or exempt.
‘Yang unlawfully broadcast her radio programme to the local Chinese community, many of whom could have been vulnerable to poor immigration advice. This conviction should send a clear message that the IAA takes non-compliance with the New Zealand immigration adviser licensing requirements very seriously,’ Albiston said.