A licensed immigration adviser has been the subject of an official investigation filed by a complainant he knew nothing about.

The complaint was dismissed by the Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal, which found the adviser "cannot be responsible" for a client he never knew existed.

The adviser, who has name suppression, was based in Australia and worked as a contractor to New World Immigration, a company based in Cape Town, South Africa.

The complainant, from Cape Town, was expecting a job offer in New Zealand and approached New World for immigration assistance.

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He was quoted fees of ZAR 32,500 ($3500) plus government fees, and was issued an invoice which he paid.

Staff, who were unlicensed, met the complainant and gave him immigration advice - including that he used the long-term skill shortage scheme and worked on putting together an application for a work-to-residence visa.

The complainant applied but failed to get the job in New Zealand and because he could not get another job offer, his application could not proceed.

He expressed dissatisfaction with the service received and sought 80 per cent of the fee he had paid.

After the complainant heard nothing more from the adviser or New World, a complaint was filed with the Immigration Advisers Authority against the adviser.

When contacted, the adviser told the authority he had not met, spoken or emailed the complainant personally.

He claimed he had never been given an opportunity to obtain instructions from the complainant or to advise him.

The adviser said he had also ceased working with New World and continued serving only existing clients so they wouldn't be disadvantaged.

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The refund was eventually made five months after the complaint was filed with the authority.

The authority referred the complaint to the tribunal alleging the adviser had breached the code of conduct.

But tribunal chairman David Plunkett accepted the adviser's contention that he was not aware of the complainant until the refund was sought.

"This was confirmed by an email sent by the adviser to New World ... that he was then under investigation by the authority 'for a client I knew nothing about'," Plunkett said.

The tribunal found the adviser could not therefore be responsible for New World's engagement with the complainant before he knew of the client's existence.

The complaint was dismissed.