Who can give New Zealand Immigration Advice?

If you need Immigration advice and are wondering who can give you New Zealand Immigration Advice, then this article is for you.

Anyone providing Immigration Advice for New Zealand must be licensed unless they are exempt as per Immigration Adviser Licensing act 2007. Following people can give immigration advice:

  • Licensed Immigration adviser under the Immigration Adviser Licensing act 2007
  • People who are explicitly exempt under the Immigration Adviser Licensing act 2007

Licensed Immigration Advisers

Licensed Immigration Advisers are professionals who have met the licensing requirements under the Immigration Adviser Licensing act 2007. Licensed Immigration advisers are bound by a code of conduct and must act in accordance with this code at all times while conducting their business and while dealing with clients.

Exempt people

There are certain people who are exempt from the licensing requirements. This includes:

  • New Zealand lawyers
  • New Zealand members of Parliament
  • Offshore student visa advisers (based outside New Zealand): these advisers can only advise on student visas
  • Citizen advice bureau
  • Community law centre
  • Foreign diplomats

Difference between Immigration Advisers and Immigration lawyers

Definition of terms

Licensed Immigration Advisers (LIA): This term refers to a professional who has been granted a License by Immigration Advisers Authority to provide immigration advice for New Zealand. These advisers are required to meet competency requirements as well as character requirements before they are granted a license to operate.

Immigration lawyer: This is term refers to a lawyer who provides Immigration advice. Any lawyer who holds a current practicing license from New Zealand law society can provide Immigration advice without requiring a license.

Education and training requirements

Licensed Immigration Advisers: All new Licensed Immigration Advisers are now required to complete a one-year Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration advice. Most advisers would have either completed a Graduate Diploma or a Graduate certificate (this qualification was later replaced with Graduate Diploma) in New Zealand Immigration advice. There are some immigration advisers who have been practicing before the licensing act was enacted and were allowed to become Licensed Immigration advisers without having any formal qualification. So it is important to check if your immigration adviser has a qualification or not. This qualification is a Graduate Diploma which someone can only study if they have a Bachelor degree (in any field).

Immigration lawyers: While there are some very expert and educated Immigration lawyers who have studied Immigration Law, any lawyer can start working as an Immigration lawyer.  There is no restriction on the fact if they actually specialized in Immigration Law in their academic background or not. For example, a lawyer working in real estate and property can suddenly decide that now I wish to work as an Immigration lawyer. Legally, there is no restriction on such a lawyer providing immigration advice. It is important to check if the immigration lawyer you are choosing has actually studied Immigration Law as part of their qualifications.

Regulating authority

Licensed Immigration Advisers: Licensed Immigration advisers are regulated by Immigration Advisers Authority. This means that all Licensed Immigration advisers are bound by a code of conduct for Licensed Immigration Advisers. If any Licensed Immigration Advisers behaves in a manner which breaches this code of conduct, you can make a complaint to Immigration Advisers Authority. The complaint process is very easy to follow and transparent and you can do it yourself without need any professional support or representation.

Immigration lawyers: If you are dealing with an Immigration lawyer and wish to make a complaint, you cannot make a complaint to the Immigration Advisers Authority. You have to contact New Zealand Law society and ask how you could make a complaint. You may also choose to use another lawyer to ensure that your complaint is well represented.

Cost

Licensed Immigration Advisers: Licensed Immigration Advisers have a restriction on how much they can charge for their services. The code of conduct for Licensed Immigration advisers states that the fees charged must be fair and reasonable based on the case needs. This means that when dealing with a Licensed Immigration Adviser, you can be certain that they cannot act in a manner which can result in increasing your fees unnecessarily.

Here is a snapshot from the Immigration Adviser Code of Conduct which talks about the fee.

Immigration lawyers: As Immigration lawyers are not regulated by the Immigration Advisers Authority, there is no such restriction on Immigration lawyers while charging a fee. While some Immigration lawyers may charge a reasonable fee, at the same time, some lawyers may charge a lot more fee for a similar level of service.

Making a decision

When making a decision on whether to choose an Immigration Adviser or a lawyer, you should consider the following factors:

  • What are your specific case needs? Do you need any assistance beyond Immigration Advice? For example, if you need assistance with your divorce, property or a criminal matter then an Immigration Adviser cannot help you in these areas. You may decide to use an Immigration Adviser for your Immigration needs but in many cases, it might be better if you went to a bigger law firm with specialist lawyers for each field and thus could assist you in all of the matters including immigration.
  • If you are just looking for immigration advice, then you may consider using an Immigration Adviser.

Choosing an Immigration Adviser

  • Check if the adviser has a qualification.
  • Whether the adviser holds a full license or a provisional license.
  • The personal level of support you require.
  • If the adviser is operating from a home office or from a commercial office space.
  • Consider if the adviser has a membership with a professional body for example NZAMI.
  • Investigate from the New Zealand companies register to find if the company employing the adviser is owned by a Licensed Immigration Adviser or a non regulated person.
  • Find out if the adviser uses a client management platform or a sophisticated case management system. This can make a huge difference in your overall experience.
  • Ask if the adviser has a team of support staff to assist in clerical tasks.
  • Establish if you can understand the adviser and feel comfortable dealing with the adviser.
  • Check social media ratings and feedback for the adviser.

Once you have made your decision, then sign a service agreement with the adviser before you start working with any adviser. This agreement is a mandatory requirement as per the Immigration Advisers Authority.