An Auckland woman from the Tongan community has been sentenced to 250 hours community work after pleading guilty to charges of unlawful immigration advice that involved deceiving family members and friends.
The Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) charged Lealeifuaneva Linda Moala under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 with two counts of asking for, or receiving a fee or reward for, immigration advice when neither licenced nor exempt, while knowing she was required to be.
The further charge under the Crimes Act 1961 was for obtaining payment by deception.
Moala, who is Samoan and married to a Tongan man, appeared before Manukau District Court earlier this month for sentencing after pleading guilty to all charges laid against her by the IAA in March 2018.
The offending included taking payment from four of her family members and friends in the Tongan Community.
Moala had worked at Immigration New Zealand (INZ) as a contracted employee for short periods prior to offending.
When talking to victims, Moala claimed she was an immigration officer and that through her contacts could arrange a ‘free-pass’ with support from workers inside INZ.
The Registrar of Immigration Advisers, Andrew Galloway, says “We would like to remind people, especially among the Pacific community, that to provide immigration advice a person must be licensed or exempt”.
“Unfortunately we hear of cases where even trusted friends or family have been recommended to help a person out with immigration advice, and it turns out they aren’t licensed.
Even if you are recommended by a person or know them, you should check whether they are actually allowed to give immigration advice”.
Immigration Advisers must be licensed by the IAA, a New Zealand government body set up to protect individuals and families looking for immigration advice, or be an exempt person, such as a New Zealand lawyer.
“The result for people using unlicensed advice can result in a range of negative outcomes including having your visa application returned. People should be particularly wary of claims of special access, or people claiming to have contacts within INZ that can help them with an immigration matter,” says Mr Galloway.
“The IAA takes this type of offending very seriously and we will continue to actively investigate and prosecute instances of unlicensed advice”.
The IAA looks into all complaints made by the public about unlicensed immigration advice. Individuals found breaking the law can face up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to NZD$100,000.