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IMMIGRATION ADVISORS – WHAT SHOULD YOU BELIEVE?

by Tammy Bell,
last updated 14/10/2011

October 2011 - Tammy Bell, an expert on settlement and migration in New Zealand from the move2nz website, suggests that some immigration advisors are scaremongering for their own financial gain

This article is reproduced with permission from the move2nz website for the benefit of Franchise New Zealand readers who are contemplating immigrating to NZ and buying a business.

Recently I have been researching immigration advisors, the number of migrants using them and how they promote their services. What I have seen has seriously worried me, prompting me to write this special report. On many licensed immigration advisors’ websites are statements literally scaremongering for financial gain.

One of the main reasons move2nz was set up was to ensure migrants had good unbiased information from a source which didn’t have a commercial interest in them. This article is intended to stop unethical businesses pulling the wool over your eyes.

Protected migrants

Immigration advisor licensing was introduced in May 2008 to provide protection for vulnerable migrants against fraudulent, corrupt and unethical advisors. The Immigration Advisors Authority was created to license and police advisors and, as part of this, introduced a Code of Conduct for licensed advisors.

Now licensed advisors know about this and the IAA has been reminding them of their responsibilities – as recently as July this year sent out a reminder to all advisors:

“that a licensed advisor must not, in a false, fraudulent or deceptive manner, misrepresent or promote himself or herself, or his or her company.”

“To ensure that you meet your obligations under the code, you should regularly review your advertising and company website to ensure that the information is up to date and accurate.”

What my research shows is that this message is not getting through to some licensed advisors who appear to be actively misleading potential clients to create fear and increase business.

Examples

Here are some examples taken this week from immigration advisor websites:Permanent Residency Applications: success rates 2010/2011

1) “Did you know that up to 30 to 50% of non-agent assisted online and DIY applications FAIL?”

Wrong – in 2010/11 only 13.5 percent of non-agent assisted DIY applications failed, and in 2009/10 it was just 12 percent. See below how this compares to agent-assisted applications ­– the results might surprise you.

  • Overall, 47,931 applications were lodged;
  • Using a licensed advisor:
    • 10,394 of applications used a licensed advisor (21.7%);
    • 85.5% of those were successful;
  • Not using an agent:
    • 32,058 of applications did not use an agent (66.9%);
    • 86.5% of those were successful.

So last year most people (across all streams) entered their application without the help of an agent and this group had the highest rate of success.

Now, to be fair many licensed advisors specialise in dealing with complex and difficult cases and the success rate of simple cases will always be higher than for the really difficult ones. However this does raise questions about many advisors who claim a 97% or better success rate.

It’s pretty worrying for licensed advisors to claim a success rate that high, because either they are lying or some other licensed advisors have success rates much lower than for DIY cases!

One of the issues which has been highlighted through this research is that there is another group with a much lower success rate than either DIY applicants or those using an advisor:
exempt people.

These include, among others, family members, lawyers, MPs and Citizen’s Advice staff. Nearly one in five of these applications (19.5% in 2010/11) failed and that is something that needs looking into!

2) “What the public do not have access to are the extensive Operational Manuals made available by the Immigration Services to migration consultants.”

Wrong – the Immigration department’s Operations Manual is freely available to all, you can search through it here, but you might not know that without sources of information like move2nz.

3) “At a recent meeting with Immigration New Zealand staff in Auckland one of the Branch Managers told us that 98% of Family Visa applications are incorrect, with more than half being rejected straight away because of this.”

I can’t comment on what was said in the meeting, but these details are clearly wrong as in 2010/11 over 92 percent of all applications lodged in the Family Category were approved!

  • Overall, 10,352 applications were made in the family category
  • Using a licensed advisor:
    • 1,288 of applications used a licensed advisor (12.4%)
    • 92% of those were successful
  • Not using an agent:
    • 8,210 of applications did not use an agent (79.3%)
    • 93.8% of those were successful

Again, the majority of applicants did not use a licensed advisor and those not using an advisor had a higher rate of success.

My reply to the claims being made by these advisors (and please excuse my language) is, “Total BOLLOCKS”.

Getting to the truth

Searching through immigration statistics is not for everyone, but it’s something (my husband and business partner) Mike and I have got used to and now do a lot. I hope what we have discovered – that some licensed immigration advisors create a false impression of your chances of a successful application to line their own pockets – will give you food for thought before parting with your hard-earned cash.

Now, I have to reiterate that not all licensed advisors make false claims. In my opinion, there are good ones out there and on complex cases (eg. business visas, instances where applicants have a weakness in their application that needs to be argued, and situations where the immigration department has made a ruling you disagree with) it really pays to have a professional fighting your corner.

The vast majority of applicants however have simple applications – either you qualify or you don’t. Apart from checking with a professional if you are worried about something, in my opinion very few of these applicants benefit from using a professional advisor – as confirmed in official government statistics.

Making a difference: what can we do about this??

Seeing this rubbish being flouted on advisors websites, Mike and I really wanted to do something about it – move2nz ,after all, is about making a difference. So Mike wrote to the IAA on 11th September 2011 to ask about this problem, worried that if licensed advisors got caught doing this they would just get a slap on the wrist and be told to correct it.

We were impressed to get a fast and clear reply back the following day confirming:

“If you have concerns about a licensed advisor and consider that they are misrepresenting themselves, their business, their clients’ immigration opportunities or NZ’s immigration requirements then this may be a breach of the Code of Conduct and grounds for a complaint to be referred to the Immigration Advisors Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal.”

The email confirmed that the IAA do not mediate in matters like this; instead the IAA refer cases to the Disciplinary Tribunal which acts like a court to assess the problem and if necessary punish the advisor. This is a much better situation than we expected.

Following a link kindly provided by the IAA we confirmed that in fact one case has already been heard by the Tribunal. Deng, a licensed advisor, falsely claimed she had a Master of Business Administration degree. The advisor was found guilty of a breach of the code of conduct, her licence was cancelled and she was ordered to pay $1,500.

Now this is a real result and something we would like to see more of!

Summary

The bad news is that we have uncovered licensed immigration advisors misleading the public to build fear in order to raise profits.

The good news is that we have also come to realise that there are laws in place to stop this.

You can make a difference and so can we. If you see a licensed advisor making a claim you know (or believe) to be false you know what to do – make a complaint to the IAA (just fill in the form here) and take the unethical advisors out of the industry.

move2nz.com is a free website that combines straight, unbiased information with a welcoming community including thousands of families already living and working in New Zealand. It was voted New Zealand's Best Community Website in 2008 and 2009. This article is reproduced with permission and remains copyright move2nz.com.

Discuss

Did you find this article useful? Join in the discussion!

2
comments
paul @ October 25th, 2014, 12:29 PM

I often see ads like 100% pass rate. Do you know where I can check whether it is true or not.

Reply
 

Bill Milnes, Access Immigration New Zealand @ January 24th, 2012, 02:21 PM

I am intrigued with Tammy Bell’s article. She describes herself as ‘an expert on settlement and migration in New Zealand’ but is not a licensed adviser, makes no claim to be exempt and admits no knowledge of the industry seminars. Although few would argue that there are incompetent advisers and lawyers preparing applications, she appears to be overly dismissive of advice given in industry seminars by both the Immigration & Protection Tribunal (IPT) and INZ and rather selective in her use of statistics, which must call into question her ‘expert status’.

For example, Ms Bell introduces claims by advisers that up to 30-50% of non-agent assisted on-line applications fail. She does not give the source of the claim, but I can’t help wondering if it is not a mis-quote [presumably by the adviser and not Ms Bell] from a recent seminar at which the Chairman of the IPT advised that 15% of declined applications are appealed and 50% of those INZ decisions are found to be wrong. How many declined applications are not appealed either because of ignorance or cost?

Her example 3 is also selective. I also was at that meeting and that is the figure which was provided. But the INZ officer was responding to a question about rejected applications, not as Ms Bell claims, declined applications. She should know the difference.

I must also challenge her allegation that any adviser who claims a 94% success rate is lying. I would have to question my involvement in the industry if I knew that I had messed up the lives of 6% of our clients. I will not accept from myself or my staff anything less that 100% success rate. We do not get it wrong.

Yes there are still bad immigration advisers, but they are reducing. I agree with her in that the ‘exempt’ advisers are a serious concern and she does not discuss the ‘phantom’ advisers who give cheap advice but do not sign the forms.

Most of us would agree that where an application is straight-forward – eg SMC or a partnership work visa, lodged on shore or in a western country, most people could successfully lodge their own application. But life is rarely simple and I would challenge her to advise say a Philippino technician married with older teenage children on the best route to residence for his family.

She advertises her website as giving straight, unbiased information. Sadly, her article in Franchise New Zealand does not reflect that claim.

I am a licensed Immigration Adviser, past Chairman of the NZ Ass’n for Migration & Investment (NZAMI) and have been practising since 1993.

Reply
 

Tammy Bell @ January 27th, 2012, 02:49 PM

1) I am intrigued with Tammy Bell’s article. She describes herself as ‘an expert on settlement and migration in New Zealand’ but is not a licensed adviser.

Settlement and Migration is a huge subject of which immigration advice on applications is a miniscule part. Migration and Settlement refers to ALL the other aspects of moving to another country: dealing with homesickness and guilt, being emotionally and financially prepared, how best to look for work, finding friends, receiving a providing support within the migrant community etc..

You do not have to be a licensed adviser to provide migration and settlement information, advice and support and very few licensed advisers have any expertise or experience in this area - their role finished once a visa is awarded while our settlement work needs to continue for years after arrival to aid retention and integration. Having worked in this field for a number of years and personally assisted thousands of migrants I can confidently say I am an expert in Migration and Settlement.

2) Ms Bell introduces claims by advisers that up to 30-50% of non-agent assisted on-line applications fail. She does not give the source of the claim.
I have checked the websites of every licensed adviser and taken screen shots of what I would consider to be questionable statements. Rather than naming and shaming the advisers we are deciding whether to lodge formal complaints with the IAA (which would potentially see a significant number of advisers lose their licenses, or if we should contact each adviser with details of questionable statements made on their websites to ask for supporting evidence.

Here are some other questionable statements taken from a licensed adviser's website I have taken screen shots of:

• "The overall failure rate of people starting the skilled residence process is about 30%."

• "Licensed Immigration Advisers are usually successful so the failure rate for people who deal directly with Immigration New Zealand must be very much higher than 30%!"

• “If you are a do-it-yourself applicant who, on your own assessment is confident you are eligible; there is a higher than 30% chance you are about to fail and loose all your money.”

3) Her example 3 is also selective. I also was at that meeting and that is the figure which was provided. But the INZ officer was responding to a question about rejected applications, not as Ms Bell claims, declined applications. She should know the difference.

You have confirmed the point that I am making as I am simply quoting EXACTLY what presented on an adviser's website. The adviser could be considered to being misleading and this statement be seen as scaremongering. I think many migrants would agree, wouldn't you?

4) I must also challenge her allegation that any adviser who claims a 94% success rate is lying.
As quoted in the article, the success rate for applications made with the help of licensed advisers is 85.5%. If some of the 503 licensed advisers claim an extremely high percentage of success (97% or better) this means that either some of these advisers are lying or that other advisers have a considerably lower success rate to create the average. Sadly some advisers only accept cases which are very simple (and could arguably be lodged successfully without professional help) to ensure high success rates, milking vulnerable migrants. This is one reason why we would like to see greater transparency in this area, hence this article highlighting a serious problem.
Would it be in appropriate to respond to your statement of a 100% success rate in your comment to point out that you mention on your website that you have had an appeal declined.

5) she does not discuss the ‘phantom’ advisers who give cheap advice but do not sign the forms.
Maybe I could do some research on this particular group but I have not mentioned them in my article as this was specifically about licensed immigration advisers who appear to be breaching the Immigration Advisers Authority Code of Conduct. Statistics are gathered from INZ.

6) Most of us would agree that where an application is straight-forward – eg SMC or a partnership work visa, lodged on shore or in a western country, most people could successfully lodge their own application.

Excellent, I am pleased that you agree with Move2NZ's stance that applicants with simple cases can successfully lodge their own application. As an aside however I notice that for Family applications your professional charges are between $6000 - $7,500 and for Skilled Migrant Category between $8000 - $10, 000 (as quoted on your website). The average charge by licensed advisers for these services (produced by the Immigration Advisers Authority) are $2,736 and $3,764 respectively meaning that your fees (taking into consideration govt fees included) are nearly twice the industry average.

7) I would challenge her to advise say a Philippino technician married with older teenage children on the best route to residence for his family.

Thanks for the challenge Bill, but as you are aware it would be illegal for me advise on technical immigration matters. Is it illegal for someone to incite me to commit a criminal offence? I will check this with the IAA :0).

8) She advertises her website as giving straight, unbiased information. Sadly, her article in Franchise New Zealand does not reflect that claim.

This is one article that Franchise asked to reproduce on their website. It's funny how some people with a commercial interest in the immigration industry get upset with our articles which are completely factual. You have commented on this article but not disagreed with it. Instead you have merely attempted to discredit me. We (move2nz.com) have no commercial interest in migrants unlike the people who complain about our articles.

Thanks again for your comments Bill and I hope I have answered your questions.

 

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