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Do you know who can provide you immigration assistance in Australia?

I renewed my registration as a migration agent today, and started thinking about this topic, which does not get discussed much unfortunately.

I have had the pleasure of providing immigration assistance to a high volume of clients on a weekly basis for a few years now - whether it is during one-off consultations or assisting clients with the preparation and lodgement of their applications.

I became a registered migration agent as I wholeheartedly wish to help people to achieve their Australian migration dreams! So it is very heartbreaking to hear from the clients who have received the wrong advice, which has lead them to a wrong pathway; or poor assistance, which has lead to their application refusal. Sometimes it is impossible to fix what has been done, and the only option may be for the person to actually leave Australia.

So, did you know that only registered migration agents, legal practitioners and exempt persons can lawfully give you immigration assistance in Australia?

Registered migration agents are qualified professionals, who from year-to-year have to meet professional standards relating to knowledge and character to continue to be registered and provide lawful immigration assistance. Registered migration agents are bound by the Code of Conduct to act in the best interest of their client.

You can find a registered migration agent from the Register of Migration Agents on the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA) website.

An Australian legal practitioner (lawyer) is someone who has been admitted by the Supreme Court and holds a legal practicing certificate granted under a law of an Australian state or territory. All lawyers have their own unique identifier number called the Legal Practitioner Number (LPN).

An exempt person is someone who may assist you with your application if they are at least one of the following:

  • your nominator or sponsor

  • your close family member

  • a parliamentarian

  • a member of a diplomatic mission

  • a member of a consular post

  • a member of an international organisation

  • preparing a submission to the Minister for Home Affairs

An exempt person is not permitted to charge you a fee if they do help you.

If you are looking at getting immigration advice from someone, then it is very important for you to check if that person is, in fact, permitted to give you immigration assistance or not!

If someone claims to be a registered migration agent and/or a legal practitioner, but you are unable to find them from the relevant registries, then you should NOT get any kind of immigration assistance from them as they are unlawful operators.

This also includes education agents, whose role is to assist you with finding suitable study options in Australia and with the enrolment process. Education agents are NOT allowed to provide you with any sort of immigration assistance, which includes immigration advice about your visa prospects and/or assistance with the preparation and lodgement of your visa application(s) – it is actually unlawful for an education agent to do this!

The risk of using someone who is not a registered migration agent or a legal practitioner is that they may give you incorrect advice due to not knowing the migration law and policies. They can take advantage of your situation and make you false promises – promise you the dream, i.e. Australian permanent residency, when, in fact you may not be eligible for it at all or it is not as simple as you have been told the process to be. These people usually also do not keep proper records, including correspondence with you and may even misplace your important documents.

The OMARA has no power to take action against them if they do any wrong by you; nor has the relevant state or territory legal services regulator any power to deal with unregistered operators.

So, what can you do when you come across an unlawful operator?

If you ever come across someone who is NOT a registered migration agent or a legal practitioner, and does not fall under the exempt persons category, but they offer to provide you immigration assistance – whether that be advice relating to your potential Australian visa options and/or assistance with your Australian visa application(s), then you still have an option to report an unlawful operator to the Border Watch Online Report on the Department’s website or call 1800 009 623 (in Australia).

Kristi Georgeson

MARN 1793357

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