Helping migrants to call New Zealand home is something that Sushan enjoys.
Born and raised in Hamilton, Sushan McDowall chose her immigration career in her last year of Law School. As a first generation kiwi growing up with parents who had immigrated from China (mother) and Cambodia (father), she decided to take the immigration and refugee law paper out of personal interest and because of her own background.
How did you decide to become an immigration lawyer?
Immigration wasn’t one of the compulsory papers that we had to do in University as part of the degree. But, it was one of the electives that we could choose.
So, the first three years is essentially the first core papers that everyone needs to take and then the last year you get to choose the papers you want.
I saw that there was an immigration and refugee law paper and I thought that’ll be interesting because while I was born and raised in New Zealand and my parents are immigrants – I sort of grew up being a lead translator in pretty much everything. So I guess I could say, that I sort of saw that side of the immigration process already, through growing up like that.
Then doing the paper taught me the legal side of it.
So when you finished at Waikato University you moved down to do Wellington?
Yes, When I finished Law School – I was just applying for jobs, seeing what was out there and I signed up with a recruitment lady. She asked ‘tell me what are your interests and what sort of areas do you get into?’
I named a couple of interests and immigration was one of them. I went for an interview for a position as an immigration lawyer. I got the job, and moved down to Wellington.
What motivated you to begin your own immigration business?
I had worked for my previous employee for over just three years. In the middle, I took a little break because they only do immigration. I took a little break because I felt like I needed to do something else, see what else was out there.
During that time I realized what I really wanted to do, and so I went back and continued doing immigration for the same company.
I could see that there are many differences between what and how I thought a client should be treated and certain ways that you could go about getting a visa. I mean, depending on the individual’s circumstances, there could be many options. So, I mean, if the person has many options, obviously there isn’t just one right answer.
Through all that learning I decided, ‘that it’s best that I take this opportunity to strike out on my own’. I knew that I could still help people the way that I wanted to do it, and the way I thought was best. Customer service is very important to me. You sort of think differently in your approach to providing immigration services.
It must be quite difficult in some of the cases that you see, whole families applying and sometimes finding your service is the very last option instead of their first. Only because they might have spent time and money with a service (that probably wasn’t registered) that didn’t have their best interests at heart.
Yeah. I saw so many of those cases and I made so many complaints on behalf of clients, to the Immigration Advisors Authority which is the group that deals with advices. It is unbelievable the amount of people alone, that I saw being these victims. It was almost heart-breaking at times because the amount of money they gave away and got nothing.
I thought why would people do that?
I understand the allure of money. We all need money to survive unfortunately, you know, we all have to eat, but they didn’t have to abuse them like that.
In my opinion, if you don’t have the skill to do it, you shouldn’t do it.
So what is the process that you have where people come to you then they say, ‘Su can you help me out with x-y-z, and then where do you go from there?
Well, I pretty much sit down with them, have a chat about their background, their situation, how they got there. I find that a lot of the time, they didn’t mean to get into that situation. Like you say, they did go to someone to try and fix it but then it just got worse and worse.
I can certainly understand why certain people wouldn’t trust anyone of any sort of authority because of what they’ve been through in the first place.
So I have a good chat with them, get a feel of their situation, see what it is that they actually want and then discuss prices. At the end of the day, I really do want to help people, and this is where it comes from, but it’s also my business.
In saying that if I can’t help them, I wouldn’t charge them. I’d tell them, ‘well, it really is the best situation for you to go back and try and reset it from there’. It depends on the person’s situation.
So you’re currently based in Wellington, but you have different online and face to face options.
Yes I do, if there are people who would like me to go to Auckland, and there’s enough people or families then yes I certainly would. But I am based in Wellington and online video calls like Skype is readily available. I also have a home office, but I do have access to offices in Lambton Quay, Wellington.
I can honestly say I’m certainly passionate about helping people. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t passionate about it.
If you would like to contact Sushan at Lim-McDowall Immigration her best contact details are:
Phone: (04) 889 0988