IT system to clean out immigration 'cowboys'

Application planned to manage licensing of immigation advisers

A new IT system will be a key part of the government's effort to clean up the immigration advice industry.

The Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA), a new authority that will administer the licensing process for immigation advisers, is seeking software to support the register of licenced immigration advisors. The back office solution must remove the risk of publishing inaccurate or incomplete information on the register, tender documents say.

The IAA is a division of the Depatment of Labour, created by the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007.

The system must manage workflow and store data relating to the licensing processes, including the public register and the management of enquiries, complaints, investigations and audits, the tender says.

In launching the licensing programme last May, then immigration minister Clayton Cosgrove said he could not stress enough how important the change was for the immigration sector.

"Before the new law was passed, anyone could call themselves an adviser, whether or not they were competent to give immigration advice," he said. "The actions of some dodgy operators caused serious harm to a number of migrants, and these 'cowboys' also damaged the reputations of legitimate, professional advisers.

"The types of offences committed by these cowboy operators were serious. A Department of Labour report identified problems such as the lodging of unfounded/abusive refugee status claims without the client's knowledge; inaccurate advice about immigration policy leading to poor and costly decisions; the theft of money and documents; the failure to lodge applications and appeals; the failure to pass on information from the department to the client, and advisers."

Web-oriented business requirements are outside of the scope of the current tender. These include secure logon online access to advisers' own personal information and contact arrangements for the purpose of maintaining any changes to these details; online access to educational courses and activities for continuing professional development (CPD), and; ability to access and submit online a pre-populated renewals form with adviser name, address and basic current licence information for the purpose of providing the form to IAA for processing the licence renewal.

The idea of licensing immigration advisers was first formally mooted in June 2000. Research was then undertaken by the government, followed by consultation with the industry during 2003 and 2004. The Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill was put before the House in June 2005 and passed into law in May 2007.

Under the new law, anyone who provides advice about New Zealand immigration matters will have to be licensed unless they are exempt. On-shore advisers must be licensed from May 4, 2009, and off-shore advisers from May 4, 2010.

Currently, licensing functions are being managed through spreadsheets in what is called the Application Processing System (APS). APS was built to manage the information required to support the register and is also used to record and process information relating to an applicant applying for an initial license to become an Immigration Adviser.

APS, however, does not support the renewing of licences or the management of the authority’s other statutory functions, according to the tender.

"In its current format the APS poses a significant risk for the authority and the department, as it does not adequately support the full breadth of the register’s required functionality or all of the initial licensing processes, nor does it support multi-user staff access," the tender says.

"Furthermore, the authority staff are using a significant number of manual procedures and 'work-arounds' to complete basic administrative tasks. This is diverting staff resource from core functions and responsibilities and adding to the risk associated with processing licence applications."

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