A former Immigration NZ staff who pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful immigration advice that involved deceiving family and friends has been sentenced to 250 hours community work.
Lealeifuaneva Linda Moala appeared before Manukau District Court earlier in February for sentencing after pleading guilty to all charges laid against her by the Immigration Advisers Authority in March last year.
She faced two counts of asking for, or receiving a fee or reward for, immigration advice when neither licensed nor exempt, while knowing she was required to be, and a further charge under the Crimes Act 1961 was for obtaining payment by deception.
Moala, who is from Auckland's Tongan community, took payments from four of her family members and friends in the community. She was a contracted INZ employee for short periods prior to offending.
She claimed she was an immigration officer and that through her contacts could arrange a "free pass" with support from workers inside the agency.
"We would like to remind people, especially among the Pacific community, that to provide immigration advice a person must be licensed or exempt," said the Registrar of Immigration Advisers, Andrew Galloway.
"Unfortunately we hear of cases where even trusted friends or family have been recommended to help a person out with immigration advice, and it turns out they aren't licensed."
Those found breaking the law could face up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
Galloway said people should check if someone was allowed to give immigration advice even if the person was recommended or known to them.
Immigration Advisers must be licensed by the IAA or be an exempt person, such as a New Zealand lawyer.
Galloway said people using unlicensed advice could result in "a range of negative outcomes" including having their visa applications returned.
"People should be particularly wary of claims of special access, or people claiming to have contacts within INZ that can help them with an immigration matter," he added.
The IAA's online register of licensed advisers is available for those who want to search for a licensed immigration adviser at www.iaa.govt.nz.