An immigration adviser has been censured and fined $3500 by the Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal for forging a client's signature.
Victoria Adele Broadway, who is based in Victoria, Australia, has also been prevented from applying for a licence for eight months.
She was acting for an applicant who was a citizen of the United States living in New Zealand seeking a renewal of her work visa.
The applicant was referred to Broadway by her employer. A written agreement for immigration services was entered between Broadway and the employer, but not the applicant.
The application was unsuccessful.
When Broadway applied to the Immigration Advisers Authority to renew her licence that she has held for nine years, she was told this particular case file had been selected by the authority for review.
After she failed to belatedly seek a signature for the agreement from the client, she copied and pasted the signature onto a copy of the agreement and sent it to the authority.
The tribunal noted it was a fundamental obligation of an adviser to have a written agreement with the visa applicant before engagement.
Broadway's claim that she thought her relationship was with the employer and not the applicant was viewed with scepticism by the tribunal.
"In any event, it was found to be no defence that an adviser misunderstood who the client was," tribunal chair David Plunkett said.
He ruled it was dishonest and misleading for an adviser to present an agreement as one signed before the services when it had been retrospectively sought.
"It was found to be plainly dishonest or misleading to attach the complainant's signature and then present the agreement to the authority as one signed by the complainant before the services were entered into," Plunkett said.
He said Broadway's conduct was dishonest and misleading, and was a breach of the Immigration Advisers' Code.
Broadway had explained in an earlier letter to the authority that she had panicked in the face of the authority's request for the file, and reacted impulsively and without good judgement.
The tribunal could prevent her from reapplying for a licence for a maximum of two years, but she has already been without a licence for 15 months.
It recommended for Broadway to complete a module of Toi-Ohamai's Graduate Diploma addressing professional standards before applying for the renewal.
Plunkett noted that even though Broadway's falsification was a serious misconduct, it was isolated, promptly acknowledged and had not adversely affected the client.
"Inserting a signature on a document was not done to deceive Immigration New Zealand or to financially benefit Ms Broadway," he said.