What to Look Out For When Choosing an Immigration Adviser
For many people, the process of immigrating to another country can often feel like a guessing game. There are simply so many factors to consider and options to evaluate and choose from. Immigration advisers can provide you with the important facts that are relevant to you and your individual immigration process; and assist you in the entire visa application process. Admittedly, as with all professions, there have been widely documented cases of ‘rogue advisers’ who have quite simply, ‘ripped people off’. However, the New Zealand government’s introduction of licensing laws in 2009 has helped minimise these cases and aim to protect both migrants and the immigration industry. All immigration advisers are now required to undergo vigorous testing and screening in order to obtain their license and provide immigration advice. Nevertheless, these changes have not deterred some from attempting to breach the law and/or falsely claim to be ‘licensed’ immigration advisers. The following are things to consider and signs to look out for when choosing an immigration adviser:
1. First and foremost, he/she must be a licensed immigration adviser. You can check whether or not he/she is licensed by visiting the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) on and scrolling through the registrar. Regardless of an advisers license type (i.e. limited, provisional, or full) he/she must be on the registrar. Even then, their license type is subject to strict conditions. For instance, an adviser on a limited license can only provide advice on a specific visa category e.g. student visas. An adviser with a provisional license must be supervised by an adviser holding a full license. Provisional license holders are prohibited from providing advice and assistance without supervision. This ensures that clients who are being assisted by immigration advisers on a provisional license are still getting accurate and reliable information.
2. He/she must have a physical address stated clearly on their website or other promotional material. You will be vesting a great deal of trust in your adviser therefore you must be able to know exactly where he/she does business. A physical address signifies transparency and accountability. Also, make sure to verify the address. Ask family and/or friends to check out the address that is listed on the adviser’s website (if you are not in New Zealand). Or, visit Google Maps – and use the street view function to check out the address. You can also log onto the New Zealand Companies Office to verify whether or not the adviser’s company is registered and to which address - visit and conduct a companies or director search. You will also be able to find out whether or not the adviser has been previously ‘struck off’ and/or been involved in a company liquidation or receivership.
3. The internet is an excellent source of information: Google the adviser and his/her immigration consultancy. If he/she has been involved in anything illegal or unsavoury activity, the search engine is bound to bring up reports and/or client reviews. Become a member of online ex-pat forums and read up on the reviews of immigration advisers. You can also post questions on such forums – you might just hear back from other members who have had positive or negative experiences with the particular immigration adviser or company.
4. Ask for references from companies he/she have worked with or who know have known his/her business for a long time. Professional references are a good indicator of a company’s integrity and reputation. Alternatively, you may ask for references from previous clients e.g. written testimonials.
5. Watch out for spurious generalisations and/or statements on his/her website or marketing material, or even during your initial meeting. Keep your eyes and ears open for exaggerated ‘success rates’ or hyperbolic statements that sound too good to be true. When in doubt – check it out!
6. Also watch out for advisers who inflate the number of years of experience they hold; or claim to be receiving ‘training’ without any clear indication of holding a provisional license with a valid immigration adviser’s license number. Anyone ‘under training’ is legally required to hold a provisional license. Ask to see proof of their license status and number, as well as the contact details of the adviser who is supervising him/her. You can also look them up on the IAA Registrar.
7. Choose an adviser who offers full settlement services and has your best interest and long term progress in mind. Some advisers arrange short term accommodation and/or pick-up transfers from the airport for their clients; or are able to put their clients in touch with the right people who can help them in these areas. A good immigration adviser will always be willing to go that extra mile for their clients and must be goal orientated in their approach to lodging visa applications.
8. Request an introductory meeting with your immigration adviser. If you are not in New Zealand, arrange a Skype meeting and/or schedule an in-depth telephone consultation to assess whether or not their services are right for you. Sometimes, it may take more than an email correspondence to determine the level trust you are prepared to invest in your immigration adviser.
You need to feel comfortable with your adviser, and must be able to trust him/her with your most personal information. He/she must be able to demonstrate a high level of professionalism and honesty; and provide you with accurate immigration advice and competent assistance which will secure the best possible outcome for your visa application. Most importantly, they must be able to demonstrate transparency in all monetary exchanges (i.e. you should know exactly where your money will be spent, always with your consent and proof of the specified transaction); and keep you informed of and involved in your visa application process. The right immigration adviser can be a great asset in your journey to settling into your new home, their services can help save you time and hassle; and allow you to focus on other important details. The main thing to remember when choosing an immigration adviser is to do your research and expect a high standard!