Immigration New Zealand (INZ) are forcefully clamping down on those people that have or are suspected to have used an unlicensed immigration advisers to assist with the preparation of their visa application, this is most notable in India where there has been a significant increase in visa declines especially for spouses of student visa holders.
The issue seems to stem from the many thousands of education agents who can legally advise students and assist with their student visa applications, however unless they are licensed, of which only a handful are,they are not permitted to provide advise or assistance to any accompanying family members. Unfortunately many of the agents are offering to assist the family members by providing advice to complete the applications but trying to hide this by not declaring their provision of assistance on the application forms, which is a legal requirement.
As per section 9 of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007, INZ will not accept applications from unlicensed advisers, but equally INZ requires all applicants to make a truthful declaration on their form. These agents advise the applicants to use their own contact details in the application form and declaring in the forms not to have received any immigration advice with their cases . So not only have applicants taken advice from an unlicensed adviser they have also made a false declaration on their form, which creates an immediate and potential insurmountable character issue for the applicant, most likely to result in the application being declined.
Recently INZ Delhi has declined many partnership applications which were lodged subsequent to approval of student visas to the spouses of these applicants. During the applicant interview, INZ has been asking these applicants whether they took help from any adviser to fill the forms and preparing the documentation for their applications. This becomes a catch 22 for the applicants as if they say no and INZ believe they have then they will have lied in the interview, and if they say yes then INZ will take issue they lied on the form. Most of these applications are being declined on character grounds. Under section 342 of the immigration Act 2009, it is an offence to provide false and misleading information in support of any application or a request for a visa or entry permission.
It is a timely reminder to all potential migrants to New Zealand, and especially those in India, to take a more cautious approach towards their future and being more diligent as to whom they engage with to represent or advise on their immigration requirements. To date these unlicensed advisers/agents have managed to avoid any legal action against them since they are not representing the clients in any formal capacity however, it is the client whose future remains at stake and they are often oblivious of the nature of the risk they undertake by involving unauthorised people in their cases and being complicit in trying to mislead INZ.
The current licensing scheme is under review and we expect the Immigration Advisers Authority will be taking greater steps to clamp down on overseas unlicensed advisers. In the interim it is applicant’s responsibility to make sure they only use licensed advisers in support for their applications.