Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman says there are no plans to review or change the Immigration Advisers Act, which makes it illegal for anyone who is an unlicensed immigration adviser to give any advice on immigration matters.
This means people who do not hold an immigration advisers licence can be prosecuted if they discuss, direct, assist, or even blog anything that can be constituted as immigration advice.
The intention of the Act was excellent – to deal to the shonky advisers who exploited migrants. But it seems to have massively over-reached.
Kiwi Immigration Watch, an immigration watchdog group headed by former United Future MP Bernie Ogilvy, says the act breaches the Bill of Rights and the basic human right to freedom of speech.
He wants the act to be scrapped or reviewed.
But Dr Coleman said the act had been passed with the support of all political parties in Parliament, and the question of whether it breached the right to freedom of speech was never raised.
“Part of the act’s passage was subject to expert scrutiny in terms of New Zealand’s human rights commitments,” he said.
“No inconsistency with those commitments was raised.”
That’s a process argument. I want to hear a common sense argument. Was it really the intention of Parliament that people offering their own experiences of immigration be banned from publishing those views on the Internet?
The Immigration Advisers Authority defines immigration advice as “using or purporting to use, knowledge of or experience in immigration to advise, direct, assist, or represent another person in regard to an immigration matter relating to New Zealand, whether directly or indirectly and whether or not for gain.”
The authority, which administers the act, has issued 18 warning letters since the law came into effect on May 4, and has warned one blogger, Helen Winterbottom, to stop posting immigration suggestions on her blog.
And this has a whiff of the EFA about it – a definition that is too widely reaching. The prohibition on giving advise, not for gain, seems to have little benefit and is what concerns me the most.
If I were to blog that prospective migrants to New Zealand should not joke on their interview forms about wanting to blow up Parliament on Guy Fawkes Day as in my experience that goes down badly, would that mean I breach the law?
At the least why doesn’t the Minister commission a review of the wording. Maybe ask the Human Rights Commission to consult with stakeholders on it, and see if a revised wording could still achieve the laudable aims of the Act, but lessen the impact on non-commercial personal advice.