A licensed immigration adviser has been censured, fined, and told to go back to school for farming out her work to unlicensed employees.
The adviser, Sharon Siew Poh Ho, had engaged in a practice known as "rubber stamping", the Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal found, which was contrary to the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act and the Licensed Immigration Advisers Code of Conduct.
Ho, who worked as a contractor to Malaysian company Austral Migration Consultancy Sdn Bhd, was censured, fined $3500 and barred from reapplying for a further licence until she had completed a graduate diploma in NZ Immigration Advice.
A Malaysian-based client was given Ho's contact in relation to migrating to New Zealand after being told by the consultancy she would not qualify for Australia.
Ho, however, left it to her Malaysian-based employees to file the application with Immigration New Zealand despite being identified on the form as the person providing immigration advice.
The client decided seven months later not to proceed with the application, and again dealt with an employee who told her INZ had changed the rules and she no longer met new migration requirements.
Tribunal chair David Plunkett found Ho had engaged in rubber stamping and delegated to unlicensed people work that was exclusively reserved for licensed advisers.
"She had no direct contact at all with the client, who had been left to deal with the staff of a consultancy in another country," Plunkett wrote in the decision.
"Her involvement had been limited to signing the letter and form prepared by others. Ms Ho had facilitated the unlawful conduct of the staff."
In her submission, Ho said she had misunderstood her obligations under the code but did not "intentionally mislead the nature of the relationship with the client with INZ".
Based in Australia, the tribunal noted that Ho obtained her licence through the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act and she appeared to have a lack of knowledge about professional obligations in NZ.
It found that it would be appropriate to prevent her from reapplying for a licence until she had completed the Graduate Diploma in NZ Immigration Advice available through the Toi-Ohomai Institute of Technology.
"I have already made the point that full training will be necessary, should Ms Ho contemplate a renewal of her licence. She agrees," Plunkett said.
He said that while only one client was involved in this case, the degree of rubber stamping was extreme.
"The client was left to deal with the employees of a company in another country. Ms Ho was not even an employee of that company," Plunkett added.
Ho was ordered to immediately pay to the Registrar a financial penalty of $3500, censured and prevented from reapplying for her licence until completing her studies.