Supervision in the Immigration Advice Industry in New Zealand

Appley BoydAppley Boyd, Licensed Immigration Adviser at Star Immigration and Programme Manager (Immigration) at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology discusses supervision in the immigration advice industry as she debunks the three most common myths. 


In New Zealand, the immigration advice industry became regulated in the late 2000s with the introduction of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007. Since then, a number of changes and improvements to the licensing regime have occurred including updating of the Licensed Immigration Advisers Code of Conduct[1] and the Immigration Adviser Competency Standards.[2]

The current supervision regime has been in effect since 2016. Anyone now wishing to become an immigration adviser must complete the first four courses of the Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice (GDNZIA) or complete the entire qualification. In addition to this, those applying for an initial licence must apply for a provisional licence and be supervised for two years.[3] Within the industry amongst students, graduates and experienced advisers, there has been a lot of informal discussion and speculation around whether the current supervision regime is working well.

In June 2019 Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology (Toi Ohomai),[4] with the support of the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA), carried out a survey of provisional licence holders and supervisors. A large number of voices were captured including 140 provisional licence holders (or former provisional licence holders) and 86 supervisors (or former supervisors). While the survey responses contradicted many of the myths in the industry around supervision, it is clear both provisional licence holders and supervisors feel there is still room for improvement.


Myth 1 – It is Difficult to Find a Supervisor

Anecdotal evidence suggests that some students find it difficult to find a supervisor. This was not validated by the survey results. 42% of provisional licence holders stated it was easy or very easy to find a supervisor. While there were still a large number of provisional licence holders who stated it was difficult or very difficult to find a supervisor,[5] this was not generally supported by other data. For example, 82% of provisional licence holders found a supervisor within three months and the median timeframe was one month. In contrast, only 4% of provisional licence holders spent more than six months searching for a supervisor. In addition to this, the majority of provisional licence holders[6] contacted only one or two licensed advisers before securing a supervisor.

Most students arranged supervision through an existing industry relationship such as a friend, colleague, employer or family member. Some students found their supervisor through a supervision advertisement placed with Toi Ohomai specifically for GDNZIA students. Only 17% located their supervisor through cold calling advisers on the Register of licensed immigration advisers.

The survey results appear to reflect the industry itself. Students who have existing connections to the industry through family, friends or employment, will generally find it straightforward to arrange supervision. Those new to the industry, without any existing connections, will find it more difficult – it will take them longer, they will have to approach more advisers and they will need to cold call full licence holders.


Myth 2 – Supervisors are Only in it for the Money

I have heard some negative comments from those in the industry regarding supervisors who charge inflated fees or supervise multiple provisional licence holders. There appears to be a concern that some supervisors are only supervising to make money and that this is somehow unethical or inappropriate.

In any case, the survey results demonstrate that the majority of supervisors do so to give back to the industry or to help others.[7] Supervisors explained that they were motivated to supervise a provisional licence holder to “share knowledge,” “share my experiences,” “to help out new advisers” and “to help raise the quality of advice being provided.” The second largest motivating factor was employer expedience.[8] That is, an employment or business relationship existed between the supervisor and provisional licence holder and it was logical for the employer or manager to act as supervisor.

Out of all supervisors who responded to the motivation question, only three mentioned money as being a consideration. The survey results showed that most provisional licence holders who paid a percentage fee were paying 20-30% of their professional fee to their supervisor. Of the provisional licence holders who paid an hourly rate to their supervisor, most paid $150 per hour or less, with the two most common hourly rates being $50 per hour and $100 per hour. 37% of provisional licence holders indicated that they did not pay any fee at all for supervision. The survey results demonstrate that the vast majority of supervisors are not “in it for the money.”


Myth 3 – Distance Supervision and Infrequent Supervision Meetings Abound

I have heard many experienced advisers who run their own business express concern about distance supervision and the lack of control a supervisor has over the provisional licence holder when they are not in an employment relationship. While these concerns may well be valid, according to the survey results, this is not the nature of most supervision arrangements. 87% of supervisors hold face to face meetings as part of their supervision arrangement. 40% of supervisors meet with their provisional licence holder daily or most days and 24% meet with their provisional licence holder one or two times a week. The survey responses indicate that most supervisors have regular face to face to contact with their provisional licence holder. These responses link in to the reasons why full licence holders have agreed to supervise in the first place – ie to give back to the industry and employer expedience.


Where to from here?

There were some very positive findings that came out of the surveys.

  • 77% of provisional licence holders would recommend their supervisor
  • 88% of provisional licence holders indicated their supervisor met or exceeded expectations

Supervisors are clearly doing something right. Nevertheless, there remains a healthy amount of dissatisfaction with the licensing regime itself. 40% of provisional licence holders indicated that the supervision regime is not working well. There were a number of themes that came out of the survey around how the regime can be improved. These include:

  • There should be better guidance and support to supervisors around expectations and what “good supervision” looks like
  • The IAA should regulate supervision more actively especially with respect to who is permitted to supervise, fees and supervisors working with multiple provisional licence holders
  • There should be different supervision requirements depending on whether an employment relationship exists between the parties or not

Perhaps it is time to review the supervision regime and consider introducing some additional requirements or competency standards for supervisors. I don’t think it is a simple matter of saying supervisors must have a certain number of years’ experience. In fact, 49% of supervisors surveyed had five or more years of experience. Experience does not always equate to competence and the fact that someone may be a good adviser does not necessarily mean that they will be a good supervisor. It is concerning that the current system permits a full licence holder who has had a complaint upheld to supervise a provisional licence holder who has also had a complaint upheld; and full licence holders who have had a complaint upheld to supervise multiple provisional licence holders.

There could be a number of requirements that a full licence holder should have to meet before being able to become a supervisor. These could include:

  • Having held a full licence for a number of years
  • Completing some type of supervision training
  • Not having had a complaint upheld by the Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal in the last five years
  • If licensed through the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act 1997, must have completed the GDNZIA or Immigration Adviser Refresher course

While the introduction of mandatory training may deter some full licence holders from becoming supervisors, several supervisors indicated that they wanted training and support in their survey responses.

Introducing additional requirements that full licence holders need to meet before being able to supervise would generate more work for the IAA as competence to supervise would be need to be assessed. However, hopefully the additional work put into regulating supervisors at the outset would lead to an overall improvement in the quality of supervision.

The whole purpose of the licensing regime is to protect the interests of consumers receiving immigration advice.[9] It is important that there is a high threshold for those entering in the industry and those supervising. The Registrar of the IAA has announced that he intends to formally review the Immigration Adviser Competency Standards and both the entry requirements and supervision will form part of that review.[10] I look forward to the review and hearing from others in the industry on the challenges we face in regulating the industry.


Note: this article was prepared by Appley Boyd in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology.


[1] Current version – Licensed Immigration Advisers Code of Conduct 2014

[2] Current version – Immigration Advisers Competency Standards 2016

[3] Section 19(5) of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 and Competency Standard 1 of the Immigration Advisers Competency Standards 2016

[4] Currently the only approved provider of the Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice

[5] 37% of provisional licence holders surveyed

[6] 51% of provisional licence holders surveyed

[7] 45 out of 69 (65%) of supervisors

[8] 20 out of 69 (29%) of supervisors

[9] Section 3 of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007

[10] IAA June 2019 Newsletter available here

Appley Boyd works as a licensed immigration adviser and is the Programme Manager (Immigration) at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology. She completed her LLB at the University of Sydney in 2001 and was admitted as a lawyer of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 2006. She has previously worked for the Fiji Legal Aid Commission and Immigration New Zealand. She became a licensed immigration adviser in 2014 and has been working as an adviser ever since. Along with managing the Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice qualification, she also runs her own business, Star Immigration. Connect with Appley via email or LinkedIn