An immigration adviser has been stripped of her licence and ordered to pay more than $20,000 after what amounted to "systematic exploitation of a vulnerable migrant".
The Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal upheld complaints that Marion Chase-Seymour had dishonestly charged a client excessive fees and asked her to work without pay.
But the Tauranga-based adviser is defending her actions and insists: "I have done nothing wrong."
The tribunal heard Chase-Seymour had been asked to help a young woman to apply for permanent residence but the woman needed an offer of skilled full-time employment to qualify.
Chase-Seymour told the woman she could work at her Tauranga-based immigration consultancy, Aotearoa Abroad, and used the job offer to apply for the woman's residence.
But Immigration New Zealand rejected the job offer as not being genuine after finding that Chase-Seymour's business was running at a loss of about $40,000 per year.
The woman initially paid Chase-Seymour $2500 and was dishonestly charged an additional $4000. When the adviser demanded a further $3000 for a financial analysis of her own practice, the woman refused.
The tribunal found Chase-Seymour's conduct "amounted to systematic exploitation of a vulnerable migrant" and ordered her to pay $15,331 in compensation and refunds, and a $5000 penalty.
Chase-Seymour voluntarily surrendered her licence on June 26 and the tribunal cancelled her licence for two years, effective July 12.
Her former clients are advised to deal directly with Immigration New Zealand or find another licensed immigration adviser or exempt person. Exempt people, such as lawyers, are permitted to provide immigration advice without a licence.
Chase-Seymour last night told the Bay of Plenty Times she surrendered her licence as a "strategical move" for her and her business.
"I knew that they were going to cancel my licence - I got notification of that - and it wouldn't have done any good."
She said her only error was administrative and she offered the young Mexican woman a job because she wanted to expand her "little business" into the South American market.
Chase-Seymour said she would not go back into the immigration industry when her suspension lapsed because she had "lost her passion".
"I've been burned. I have built my business on honesty and integrity - that's it."
She said she had received support after emailing her client base the news of her licence surrender. "I have done nothing wrong."
The complaint is the third to be upheld against Chase-Seymour. 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, and failure to provide a written agreement.