A former immigration adviser in New Zealand has been ordered to pay more than a quarter of a million dollars by a tribunal for “calculated” and “systematic dishonesty”.
Glen William Standing must pay nearly $280,000 in refunds, penalties and compensation – the highest amount demanded from a single person by the Licensed Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal.
The Immigration Advisers Authority confirmed 19 former clients had made complaints against Glen – the highest number of complaints the Authority had received against a single person.
Two of the 19 complaints were upheld last year and in August 2011 Geln had his licence cancelled for providing incorrect advice.
The remaining 17 complaints were upheld in August this year.
The Tribunal found Glen had tried various ways to persuade clients to part with excessive fees, including making false claims that:
he provided his services as “an immigration law firm”
could 100% guarantee the client New Zealand residency and
he could be prosecuted if he didn’t secure the visa.
The Immigration Advisers Authority website shows that in 2011-12 the average fees charged by a licensed immigration adviser for residence visas ranged from $2,790, for those applying under the Family (Partner) category, to $3,810 for skilled migrants. Glen charged his 17 clients an average of $7,904.
Liquidators found Glen, the Nelson-based director of Golden Sands Migration Limited and former director of liquidated immigration consultancy Living New Zealand Limited had acquired around $635,000 in fees from overseas clients for work that had not been completed.
Authority Registrar of Immigration Advisers Barry Smedts urged consumers to read the Immigration Advice Consumer Guide.
“Potential migrants about to spend a large amount of money on a life-changing decision need to read our Consumer Guide before hiring an immigration adviser,” says Barry.
“Here they will find everything they need to know. There’s even a checklist so they can make sure their adviser is providing them with all the right documents.”
The Tribunal found Glen “personally tailored a deceitful misrepresentation for the individual client”.
The chair said: “The deceit was not puffery or exaggeration; it was calculated dishonesty for personal gain.
His objective was to solicit fees, with the intention of not delivering the services the clients were promised, and paid for.”
As a result of Glen’s promises, a Japanese woman resigned from her job, cancelled the tenancy of her apartment in Osaka and started having a house built in New Zealand only to be detained at the border and forced to explain why she was attempting to enter the country.
Another couple spent $100,000 relocating with their family and establishing a business only to discover their ability to remain in the country depended on their business having the potential to trade profitably within 12 months.
A Bangladeshi student was told there was a “free flight offer” and “a large volume of interest” from Christchurch employers for post-earthquake work. And another man, living in Spain, was told that finding employment was “the least of his worries” and that there were 132 vacancies.
Several of Glen’s clients lived in the United Kingdom and met him at organised events.
The Tribunal chair said: “In many, if not all, cases the fees Glen solicited came from clients who could ill afford to lose money they had put aside to pursue a major lifestyle ambition for themselves and their family.”
Glen was censured and prevented from reapplying for a licence for two years.
How to choose an immigration advisor?
The Immigration Advisers Authority was set up in May 2008 to regulate immigration advice both nationally and internationally.
Under the Immigration Licensing Act 2007 anyone giving immigration advice must have a licence unless they are exempt. Exempt people include lawyers and those working at Citizens’ Advice Bureaus among others.
For more information, read Immigration Advice Consumer Guide