Supervision in the Immigration Advice Industry in New Zealand

Appley BoydAppley Boyd, Academic Leader, Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology shares her insight  on the Immigration advice industry in New Zealand.


The immigration advice industry in New Zealand is regulated and any person who wishes to provide immigration advice relating to a New Zealand immigration matter must be licensed or exempt.[1] The Immigration Advisers Authority administers the licensing regime. In order to become a licensed immigration adviser, first time applicants must complete an approved qualification or entry course[2], or be registered as a migration agent in Australia.[3] Those new to the industry are granted a provisional licence and must work under supervision for two years before becoming eligible to upgrade to a full licence.[4] Any licensed immigration adviser with a full licence can act as a supervisor.[5]

Anecdotal evidence suggests that provisional licence holders have diverse experiences of supervision. In 2022 Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, a provider of the approved entry qualification, the Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice (GDNZIA), carried out a survey of GDNZIA graduates. The survey was sent to 135 students who completed the GDNZIA in 2020. 61 graduates responded to the survey, providing a 45% response rate. This article will discuss the survey responses relating to the graduates’ supervision experiences.


Graduates must find a suitable supervisor themselves. Supervision opportunities are shared with GDNZIA students and professional groups have lists of available supervisors. However, in many cases it can still be difficult for a graduate without any industry connections to arrange suitable supervision. When asked, how easy or difficult was it to find a suitable supervisor, 43% of graduates indicated it was easy or very easy; 31% indicated it was difficult or very difficult; 16% were neutral; and 10% indicated a not applicable response. Several graduates suggested that it would be helpful if the Immigration Advisers Authority maintained a database of available supervisors.


It is permissible for supervisors to charge a fee for supervision, but the fee charged must be “fair and reasonable.”[6] The Immigration Advisers Authority requires any supervision fees to be charged to be included in the supervision agreement, which needs to be approved by the Authority. The survey responses illustrate that there is a huge variance in the fees which are charged for supervision, ranging from nothing to $40,000. Approximately a third of graduates indicated that they paid nothing for supervision. This is likely because both the provisional licence holder and supervisor were working together at the same immigration advice company. Supervision fees included hourly rates up to $250 per hour, monthly fees up to $500 per month and annual fees ranging from $2500 to $4000 per year. Aside from this, some fees were solely commission based, ranging from 10% to 30% of the fees charged by the provisional licence holder. The survey responses revealed that graduates perceived there was a lack of appropriate regulation of the fees charged. One graduate commented that supervisors “can charge their fees arbitrarily because the market is in their favour.


Graduates were asked “How well do you think the current supervision regime is working?” The responses were mixed with 38% indicating the regime is working well or very well and 25% indicating the regime is working “not very well” or “not at all.”

The respondents who had a positive view and considered the supervision regime is working well or very well, generally commented on the benefits they gained from supervision and the positive attributes of their supervisor. Some of the comments included:

Supervisors are an extra layer of support to us, and an extra set of eyes on our work.”
a professional supervisor is paramount to ensure my practice is right on track. My supervisor worked in the same office with me, so I can ask questions any time.
My supervisor was great – knowledgeable and very meticulous.”

The respondents who had a negative view and considered the supervision regime is working “not very well” or “not at all”, generally commented on their poor personal experiences, the cost of supervision and the perceived lack of regulation of supervisors. Some of the comments included:

“No one checks if their mentoring is correct and PLH can easily find themselves in vulnerable circumstances in relation to their supervisor
From my experience with one of my supervisors, I don’t believe they should ever have been granted the privilege of being a supervisor, but in fact they were supervising three people!
You can’t tell how experience is the full license immigration adviser and there is no standard fees guideline for them to charge. Some full license advisers do not even have much experience and they just want to make money out of this scheme

The survey results demonstrate that graduates have had varied experiences of supervision. Supervision experiences should not be haphazard. Graduates need to have the confidence that any full licence holder who is supervising, has the required knowledge and skills to provide competent supervision. There is a power imbalance between graduates and supervisors which exacerbates the problem. Graduates require a supervisor in order to apply for a provisional licence. Some graduates are willing to pay a higher supervision fee, regardless of the competence of the supervisor. There is also a reluctance from provisional licence holders to report any issues about their supervisor to the Immigration Advisers Authority, as they worry this may jeopardise their own licence. This can be seen in the following graduate comment:

Finding a supervisor was difficult enough so when I had one in place there was absolutely no way I was going to risk losing them by criticising/reporting them … I stayed with my supervisor as that’s what I needed to do to become licensed and I felt silenced by that and unable to speak out which may have put my study & supervision … in jeopardy.”


There is no simple solution to the challenges of the supervision scheme. The Immigration Advisers Authority may not have the capacity to carry out additional scrutiny of supervision and doing so may upset advisers who are already meeting their obligations. Introducing stricter requirements for supervisors, such as mandatory training, or setting limits on supervision fees, will likely deter some full licence holders from supervising. This may in turn make it even more difficult for graduates to find a supervisor. It is difficult to find the right level of regulation but the survey results suggest stricter regulation of supervision may be welcomed by provisional licence holders.

[1] Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007, s6
[2] Immigration Advisers Competency Standards 2016
[3] Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act 1997, s19
[4] Immigration Advisers Competency Standards 2016, Competency Standard 1
[5] Licensed Immigration Advisers Code of Conduct 2014, cl 12.a
[6] Licensed Immigration Advisers Code of Conduct 2014, cl 12.b

Appley Boyd works as a licensed immigration adviser and is the Academic Leader (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 LinkedIn