An industry partnership that is better not created
There has been much participation in the discussions and consultations around an industry partnership with Immigration New Zealand (INZ) in recent months.
The Immigration Reference Group (IRG) is an industry group comprising New Zealand Association of Immigration Professionals (NZAMP), New Zealand Association of Migration & Investment (NZMI), New Zealand Law Society (NZLS) and New Zealand Immigration Institute (NII) who met quarterly with senior INZ officials.
I am a NZLS representative in this group.
INZ mooted the idea of an industry partnership and set up a subgroup to develop the project. The idea was that if a certain criteria were met, industry partnership status could be bestowed on a holder, who could then elect to take their client through this route or through normal processing.
INZ wanted a relationship with Lawyers and Licensed Advisers regarding work visa and residence applications that is similar to its existing visitor visa relationship with Air China and student visa relationship with tertiary providers.
These relationships are new and appeared to be working well. INZ is reported to have reduced resourcing because processes have been streamlined and risks well managed.
INZ held consultations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch through an online survey.
NZLS (www.lawsociety.org.nz) was a strong challenger of this concept, with an article entitled, “Immigration partnership proposal should not proceed.”
Documents relating to the Potential Industry Partnership between INZ and immigration professionals encompass former’s ‘Vision 2015’ of moving to an operating model based on partnerships with industry stakeholders.
The intention is to facilitate INZ sharing risk and benefits with partners to enable faster and more efficient processing of low risk, high quality visa applications.
In its submission, NZLS said that it was strongly in favour of initiatives to improve the quality of applications submitted to INZ and service delivery. But it offered alternative proposals that would better advance those aims.
The main concern was rooted in the obligations of immigration lawyers and licensed immigration advisors to their clients.
NZLS objected to IRG because (a) it would create a conflict of interest as lawyers owe duty to their clients and INZ (b) it would necessitate a high success rate with the result that some of the most vulnerable migrants and difficult cases will be turned away from quality service and (c) use of ‘Trusted Partnership’ as a marketing tool would create monopoly and force smaller players out of the marketplace
Following the discussions and findings of the survey, INZ said, “While there was some support for the concept of an Industry Partnership, we will not be pursuing the proposal in its current form. We would like to continue to support the industry to take this work forward to see if we can develop a strategic partnership with more discussions.”
“We will take away the valuable feedback around our service delivery to identify and implement improvements. The key areas that we will be focussing on will be electronic lodgement, guaranteed processing times and clear application lodgement criteria.”
Some people are relieved that the IRG between INZ and Lawyers and agents will not go ahead in the current format.
However, the idea remains on the table for further discussion. Arguably, there is no urgency as this stage.
Personally, I am happy that the concept is dead and we do not have to debate its merits any more. It would have changed the look and feel of our industry, and created giant immigration firms flying their flag of trusted partnership. This would have generated a flocking effect of impressionable clientele ready to pay any amount to ensure a positive outcome. Fiduciary duty would have been compromised along with many more counterproductive outcomes.