28 February 2024

Unlicensed immigration adviser pleads guilty

An Auckland man has pleaded guilty to five charges laid by the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA), four representative counts of providing immigration advice without being licensed or exempt, and one representative charge of asking for or receiving a fee.

Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA), four representative counts of providing immigration advice without being licensed or exempt, and one representative charge of asking for or receiving a fee.

Timothy Joseph Spooner appeared in the Papakura District Court for charges related to advice provided on student, visitor, work, and residence visa applications as well as an appeal to the Immigration & Protection Tribunal.

Many in the Thai community regarded Spooner as an “immigration champion who fights for the serious and desperate cases”. In March last year when Spooner was charged, NZ Thai Society president, Songvut Manoonpong said it came as a shock to their community because many thought he was licensed.

According to Manoonpong, Spooner had helped several members of the community, including Naengnoi Sriphet, who was jailed in 2015 for recruiting women from Thailand to work illegally as sex workers in Auckland.

“If people need help with a visa application, they should only use a licensed immigration adviser or exempt person,” says the Registrar of Immigration Advisers, Andrew Galloway.

“This is an example of someone who has been failing to meet the requirements of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 (the Act), despite repeated reminders, a formal interview, caution and warning and plenty of advice from the IAA over a long period of time,” added Galloway.

“Through our work, the IAA will continue to raise awareness that unlawful immigration advice can cause significant stress and problems for visa applicants, not to mention putting them out of pocket or putting their dreams of moving to New Zealand in serious jeopardy.

“The IAA will hold people to account where they continue to flagrantly flaunt the requirements of the Act. At the heart of our cases is the protection of migrants who often come to harm where unlicensed advice is given. This also has a flow on effect to the reputation of New Zealand as a migrant destination,” Andrew Galloway says,

The IAA investigates 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.

Spooner will appear for sentencing at the Manukau District Court in August.

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