A Tauranga immigration adviser has surrendered her licence after being found guilty of dishonest conduct.
Marion Chase-Seymour was asked to assist a young woman to apply for permanent residence. The woman needed an offer of skilled full-time employment to qualify but did not have a suitable job.
Ms Chase-Seymour told the woman she could work at her Tauranga-based immigration consultancy, Aotearoa Abroad and used this job offer to apply for the woman's residence.
Immigration New Zealand rejected the offer for not being genuine after finding Ms Chase-Seymour's business was running at a loss of around $40,000 per year.
The woman initially paid Ms Chase-Seymour $2,500 and was dishonestly charged an additional $4,000. When the adviser went on to demand a further $3,000 for a financial analysis of her own practice, the woman refused.
In her complaint to the Immigration Advisers Authority, she claimed Ms Chase-Seymour had asked her to work without pay. She said she only returned to New Zealand with her father because Ms Chase-Seymour had assured her of being able to get residence. In total the family incurred more than $15,000 in fees and expenses based on Ms Chase-Seymour's advice.
The Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal found Ms Chase-Seymour's conduct: "amounted to systematic exploitation of a vulnerable migrant."
The tribunal upheld the woman's complaint and cancelled Ms Chase-Seymour's licence for two years with effect from 12 July 2013. She was ordered to pay $15,331.09 in compensation and refunds and a $5,000 penalty.
Ms Chase-Seymour voluntarily surrendered her licence on 26 June 2013 and can no longer provide immigration advice.
Her former clients are advised to deal directly with INZ or find another licensed immigration adviser or exempt person. Exempt people, such as lawyers, are permitted to provide immigration advice without a licence.
Three complaints have been upheld against Ms Chase-Seymour to date. The other two were upheld on the grounds of:
failure to provide appropriate and professional immigration advice
proceeding with an application that could not succeed
failure to provide a written agreement.
The Authority recommends that people make sure they fully understand what their money is paying for when signing a written agreement with their licensed immigration adviser. All fees and costs must be set out in the agreement. If additional services and costs are required, the client and adviser must also agree to them in writing.