CAB Slams Cowboy Immigration Consultants
The New Zealand Association of Citizen's Advice Bureaux (NZACAB) today called for the regulation of immigration
consultants to stamp out corrupt and exploitative practices.
According to NZACAB's Chief Executive, Nick Toonen, "Citizens Advice Bureaux are appalled at the actions of some
immigration consultants who take advantage of vulnerable new migrants and are also corruptly billing migrants for using
our free service."
NZACAB research has shown that some immigration consultants are themselves using the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) free
migrant advice service, and are referring migrants to CAB and billing the migrant for the CAB service.
"This unscrupulous behaviour by cowboy immigration consultants is the sort of thing the CAB service sees on a regular
basis. It's time for the Government to regulate these cowboys out of the industry," Mr Toonen said.
The issues have been highlighted in an NZACAB submission to the Minister of Immigration in response to her discussion
paper Options for Setting Enforceable Standards for Immigration Consultants.
"NZACAB welcomes initial Government efforts to address the exploitation of migrants by some immigration consultants, and
we're very keen to sit down with the Minister and industry representatives to find a lasting solution to this problem,"
said Mr Toonen.
"All too often we're sorting out the mess left by these cowboy immigration consultants - and it's people's lives that
are being messed with. It's difficult enough to move to a new country without being ripped-off when you arrive, and
having your ability to stay jeopardised by unscrupulous individuals providing wrong information, poor advice and corrupt
Typical cases found during NZACAB's research on immigration consultants include:
An immigration consultant sent a client to the CAB for advice because he did not have all the necessary information. The
consultant subsequently billed the client for our free service.
A client sought a bureau's help to fill in an immigration form. In the course of the conversation our worker discovered
that the client had already paid a lawyer to do the work but the lawyer had failed to meet the Immigration Service's
An immigration consultant asked the bureau to complete applications on behalf of his clients, whom he was going to
charge for our work
One bureau has had several clients, including medical doctors, engineers and architects, who had been told by an
overseas-based consultant that work would be available to them on their arrival in New Zealand. The consultant did not
inform them that they would need to apply for registration (with the relevant professional body). Nor had they been told
of the fees, examinations and other requirements for a New Zealand qualification.
A client had paid $4000 to an immigration consultant who promised her a job and permanent residency. She had not heard
from the consultant for over three months when she came into the bureau for help.
NZACAB has recommended to the Minister for Immigration that she sit down with representatives of ethnic, migrant and
community groups, and immigration consultants to develop enforceable controls over the industry in New Zealand.
NZACAB acknowledges efforts done by some in the industry, namely the Association for Migration and Investment, to
establish a voluntary code of conduct for immigration consultants. However, more stringent controls are needed over the
industry and these controls must be enforceable.
"We recommend that migrants contact their local Citizens Advice Bureau for free, confidential and informed advice and
assistance on immigration matters," Mr Toonen said.
Media comment: contact Nick Toonen, Chief Executive,
(04) 382 8759 or mobile 021 135 6085
Background information: contact Ross Bell, Social Policy & Information Officer,
on (04) 382 8759 or mobile 025 294 9722
Note: Copies of the NZACAB submission are available on CAB's web site,
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ABOUT THE NEW ZEALAND ASSOCIATION OF CITIZENS ADVICE BUREAUX
The New Zealand Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (NZACAB) provides a national Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) service
which provides free to all individuals an impartial and confidential service of information, advice and support and
makes responsible use of the experience so gained.
The aims of the NZACAB are:
* To ensure that individuals do not suffer through ignorance of their rights and responsibilities or of the services
available: or through an inability to express their needs effectively.
* To exert a responsible influence on the development of social policies and services, both locally and nationally.
There are 91 Citizens Advice Bureaux throughout the country, handling over half a million enquiries each year. In these
bureaux over 2,700 trained volunteers take time to listen, offer options of relevant services and information, and, as
necessary, work with clients to identify an effective course of action.
In 1999 the CAB Service received over 6,800 inquiries nationally about immigration issues, and enquiries during 2000