The New Zealand Immigration Advisors Authority (I.A.A.) has issued a warning to Samoan residents seeking immigration advice.
The warning from Catherine Albiston, the Registrar of I.A., cautions members of the public against working with what they refer to as unlicensed advisers.
Ms. Albiston is travelling the Pacific to increase community understanding about the I.A.A’s licensed adviser register and the risks associated with using unlicensed advisers. She is in Apia this week.
“Our main message is to raise awareness in the community that it isn’t okay for people in the community to provide immigration advice unless you’ve got a license,” she said.
“We want to stop scams and stop people from paying money that doesn’t get them a visa.”
The New Zealand government has specifically set up the I.A.A to protect migrants who wish to travel to New Zealand.
“There have been historically and it continues that migrants and people wanting to come to New Zealand do get bad immigration advice. It may be from good meaning people in the community and from the churches but often they get bad advice.
“That bad advice has bad consequences for people’s lives. That bad advice wrecks lives and people end up in New Zealand as over-stayers and might get deported which causes financial stress and stress in families when people get bad advice.”
According to Ms. Albiston, Anyone who needs immigration advice should either go directly to Information New Zealand.
“If you need extra help, you need to use a licensed immigration advisers. There are very few exceptions for lawyers who have a certificate but most of them are based in New Zealand.”
The I.A.A also wants to end illegitimate dealing of members of the community who give out advice without a license.
Ms. Albiston warns that members who are not licensed or certified and are giving information can and will be prosecuted in New Zealand as it is a highly punishable offence .
The I.A.A has advised that the best option for migrants is to visit their free website: iaa.govt.nz to get reliable information and a listing of certified immigration advisers locally as well as advisers based in New Zealand.
Mrs. Albiston advises that if you are unsure if the advisor that you are dealing with is legitimate to check the website for their name on the listing or ask for their official identification card issued by the I.A.A.
If the advisors name does not appear on the list, he/she is most likely a scammer and do not proceed to take advice from said person.
Currently there are only two licensed advisors based in Apia. They are Denise Ella Sonnya Ah Tune and Roberta Tiatia.
For more information, visit their website which is in Samoan and English: iaa.govt.nz