4 May 2009

Uncertainty for some migrants in law change

8:51 pm on 4 May 2009

Fewer than half the estimated number of immigration consultants have obtained a licence required by a new law, potentially stalling the often costly applications of some immigrants.

The Immigration Advisers Licensing Act was passed in 2007 in a bid to protect immigrants from unscrupulous advisers, and weed them out of the industry.

Sections of the law came into effect on Monday, making it it illegal in most cases to give immigration advice without a licence, which costs $1995.

The registrar of the Immigration Advisers Authority set up under the legislation, Barry Smedt, says so far 171 of about 400 advisers have obtained a licence.

About 160 others have told the authority the competency standards are too hard to achieve, which Mr Smedt says is a good thing, as these are the people the Government does not want to be licenced consultants.

However, it does mean uncertainty for an unknown number of people who have already paid consultants to work on their behalf, and who will not have their applications accepted if these consultants are unlicensed.

Mr Smedt says a series of workshops has already been held and the authority has done as much as humanly possible to let people know about the change.

David Cooper, from consultants Malcolm Pacific Ltd, says vulnerable people will be caught out by the new requirements.

He says while the authority has done everything within its budget to warn about the changes, some things could have been better handled, for example new forms have only been available at immigration offices for about a week.

An Auckland lawyer specialising in immigration issues says while consultants need to be regulated, the cost of licenses will be too high for many.

Colin Amery fears the cost could force some out of business. He says many people probably cannot afford the fee in the current economic climate.