Preparing and lodging your own visa application without a migration agent or immigration lawyer saves some money in the short term, but what risk is that saving creating? The cost of rectifying a refusal are usually around $5k-$10k just in running appeal applications, or in fresh visa application fees, and the costs can be much higher if it means having to leave Australia. Also, delays caused by self lodged applications not being complete mean that eligibility for benefits are delayed such as stamp duty concessions on home purchases, university fees as domestic students, centrelink and medicare benefits, school fees and much more. This is before we start considering the emotional toll that visa issues can cause to applicants and their loved ones.
If you have applied for a visa in the past or have already commenced the process of preparing your application, you may have observed in your own experience that the process is not a simple one. Although you can lodge your own application, the reality is that Australia’s migration laws are complex, and it is likely that someone who is unfamiliar with the process would be unaware of all the ‘ins and outs’ and intricacies of the system. This is even more so the case in the current climate with the migration laws constantly changing. To ensure that you gain the best and most effective result based on your individual circumstances, you need to have an in-depth understanding of how these laws apply in practice as well as the latest developments and how they affect your application.
The daunting process of visa application made easy
Registered Migration Agents and immigration lawyers are trained professionals who are available to assist you with all aspects of your application, including the provision of advice regarding your visa options, preparing and lodging your application, and representing you in your dealings with the Department. They are skilled in Australia’s migration laws and are authorised under the Migration Act 1958 to provide these, and other services, that relate to your application. Migration agents practice exclusively in this one area of the law only, and utilise their knowledge, skills and experience to guide you through the application process, which can often be a stressful time for you. Their goal is to help you to achieve a positive result and to make the process as easy and seamless as possible. They take it out of your hands (to the extent that they can) and you can rest assured that everything is being done to help you to achieve the best outcome. Getting it right the first time means you are less likely to end up with a visa refusal and the loss valuable time and money which you have invested into the process if the outcome is unsuccessful. In some cases, not being fully informed about the requirements can also lead to more serious consequences for future visa applications (for example, the Department can impose exclusion periods of between 3 and 10 years if it is determined that you have breached certain public interest criteria). Not being aware of these provisions can prove disastrous to your application and potentially your ability to apply for a visa in the future.
It’s the things that you don’t know that can often pose the greatest risk.
In this article, we discuss how a migration agent can assist you with your visa application and consequently overcome some of the complexities involved in the process, and the potential benefits that may result from engaging their services. Being informed about what a migration agent can do to strengthen your application will place you in the best position to decide how to proceed in this regard. Our aim in this article is to provide you with this information so that you can make the decision that is right for you.
What is a Registered Migration Agent?
Migration agents are skilled migration law professionals who must meet specified minimum competency standards to register as migration agents. They are regulated by the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA) and are listed on the Register of Migration Agents, which is held by the OMARA and which can be accessed here.
Migration agents must abide by a Code of Conduct as they carry out their work. They must also keep their knowledge of migration law and procedure up to date by completing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities, and they must re-apply for registration annually.
What types of services can a migration agent provide?
A migration agent is authorised to provide the following assistance to their clients:
- Advice about visa-related matters (including an assessment of visa options, visa entitlements and conditions, and information about the visa application process)
- Prepare or review of a visa application
- Prepare an appeal application (in cases where a visa application has been refused) and provide representation at the Tribunal hearing (note that migrations agents’ rights to represent a client at a tribunal hearing are restricted)
In addition, migration agents can assist with other aspects that may arise in relation to a visa application, such as skills assessments, State and Territory nominations and police clearances, as required.
The type and range of services offered by individual agents will vary, with some agents specialising in particular visas, such as family or student visas, or the complicated visa appeals process (which is facilitated through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) rather than through Immigration). Migration agents also typically offer a range of options in terms of how comprehensive their service offering is, to suit your individual needs and/or preferences. For example, they may offer to review your application only, or they can provide a comprehensive service from assessment of your visa options right through to time of decision. Alternatively, they can offer a service somewhere in between. You will in most cases have the flexibility to choose which option suits you best and proceed on that basis. If an agent is unable to provide you with the type of assistance which you are looking for, they will often refer you to other agents or appropriate third parties who can help.
Why should I engage a migration agent with my migration matter?
You may ask:
Lodging a visa application is already a very expensive process, why should I add to this cost by appointing a migration agent when I can do it all on my own?
Here is our answer:
As noted in the introduction, navigating one’s way through Australia’s migration system is not a simple exercise. Migration laws are constantly changing and can be confusing. Migration agents practice in this one specialised area of the law only. They have the qualifications and expertise to advise you about your best options for migration to Australia. Migration agents are trained professionals in the migration laws of Australia. They must complete a post graduate University Law qualification, including a period of supervision in immigration, before they are permitted to practice
Migration agents are subject to a high degree of regulation and supervision by the OMARA, which is part of the Department. They must meet specified competency requirements for initial registration, and they must comply with strict professional development requirements to maintain registration (including re-applying for registration annually). Migration agents must comply with a Code of Conduct. This sets out their obligations in relation to the following:
- Interactions with their clients
- Fees and charges, record keeping and financial management
- Responsibilities to other agents and employees
- Requirements for responding to client complaints
Migrations agents must adhere to privacy restrictions in relation to their clients, ensuring that all communications remain confidential. They must also abide by conflict of interest rules to protect their clients’ interests
Licensed by the Department of Home Affairs (MARA)
Migration agents are licensed to represent their clients in all aspects of their application with the Department. This extends to dealing with other relevant organisations as required for your application (for example, a skill assessing body). Migration agents know what is required to lodge a ‘decision-ready application,’ meaning a complete application is submitted at time of lodgement. This will make it more likely that the Department will decide your application without incurring any additional delays, or refuse the application because documents have not been provided.
Migration agents solve problems. With migrations laws being so complex, the answer is sometimes not obvious. There are often opportunities that you may otherwise be unaware of, such as alternative visa pathways. Migration agents can identify these aspects and see things that may not be visible to someone who is not familiar with the process
Represent you on Appeal
If your application is refused, a migration agent can help you with your appeal and represent you in your dealings with the AAT.
Access to Information & Knowledge
Although information regarding visa requirements is available publicly, professionals who work in the industry often have an added insight into the things that you can do to make your application stronger, which is not always widely known. An example of this is the documentary evidence requirements. Even though document checklists are available publicly, migration agents may supplement the base evidence with certain documents which they feel, based on their professional skills and experience, require added support. A migration agent can, for example, prepare detailed written submissions. These may include relevant legislative and/or case law references to supplement certain aspects of the application. Some visa requirements do not have a black and white answer and presenting persuasive arguments can help get your application over the line. These subtleties can mean the difference between a successful outcome versus a refusal. Migration agents have access to restricted content, which is not publicly available, and which can be very beneficial for your application. One such example is Departmental policy, which sets out how Immigration interprets and applies the migration law in deciding visa applications. This is a valuable source of information for migration agents when advising clients and preparing applications.
It is often the case that there are many facets involved in compiling, preparing and lodging a visa application. The application form itself is just one part of the process and it is often the case that a number of additional aspects are required for visa grant. Examples include police clearances, health checks, specified English test results, skills assessments and health insurance. A migration agent will advise you about any such requirements that apply to your application and provide instructions for how to obtain them. They may also be able to organise a health insurance policy or apply for a police clearance on your behalf. Note that you cannot simply obtain any health insurance policy because it is the cheapest you can find. Similarly, submitting test results for an English test that you completed many years ago will not always be acceptable. Specific requirements apply and if you do not comply with them, your application will potentially be refused. Therefore, knowing this detail is vital to the success of your application
Referrals to trusted service providers
Migration-related matters can affect your obligations and/or rights in other areas of the law, such as taxation or family law. Migration agents can advise you when these types of issues arise and refer you to appropriate professionals for further advice.
Book in with a migration agent today!
The above discussion outlines how a migration agent can assist you with your visa application and the potential benefits that may arise from engaging their services. We recommend that you carefully consider the points raised in this article as you decide how to proceed with your own application. Our aim is to provide you with the information you will need to make the decision that is right for you. Being fully informed is vital and we hope this article helps guide you in your decision making.
For up to date advice on the visa application process, book your confidential consultation with a migration agent in Adelaide. PAX Migration Australia is a leading immigration advice service based in Adelaide, and we aren’t expensive! Just ask us!