The Profession

John Young recommends that clients only use Australian Registered Agents in managing migration applications. There is a real risk in using Agents overseas who are not Australian Registered Migration Agents.

A migration agent is anyone who uses knowledge of migration procedures to offer advice or assistance to a person wishing to obtain a visa to enter or remain in Australia.

The definition of ‘immigration assistance’ also includes giving assistance to people who are nominating or sponsoring prospective visa applicants.

An ‘agent’ includes lawyers and people who work for voluntary organisations and provide their advice free of charge. However, migration agents generally charge for their services.

Migration agents operating in Australia are required by law to be registered with the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA). Some migration agents operating outside Australia are also registered with the MARA.

All registered migration agents must:

  • meet the qualification requirements for registration, which include a sound knowledge of Australian migration law and procedures (for initial registration) and ongoing professional development activities (for subsequent registration);
  • be of good character; and
  • abide by the Migration Agents Code of Conduct which they are required to display in their offices.

How to choose a migration agent

Registration applies to an individual and not to an organisation. The first thing you need to be sure of is that you are dealing with is a registered migration agent, whether in or out of Australia. You can do this by either asking to see their certificate of registration (which has their photograph on it) if you are with the agent at the time or by checking the Register of Agents on this website.  Also, for your protection this website contains information about agents whose registration is suspended or cancelled by the MARA (sanctioned agents) and information about agents who are no longer registered (lapsed agents).

If you discover that a person in Australia has given you immigration assistance and they are unregistered, you should immediately contact the Department of Immigration.  The Department of Immigration will assess the information given and investigate any allegations of unregistered practice.  The best way to report information about unregistered practice is to contact the nearest Department of Immigration office.  Click here for a link to their contact details or call them in Australia on 131 881.

Before engaging your migration agent ask for a contract or statement of services and an outline of fees applicable to your circumstances. You should not sign the contract or statement of services until you fully understand the terms of the work to be done. Ask questions to clarify anything you do not understand.

Questions you might ask when choosing your migration agent include:

  • Experience – What are your areas of expertise? Do you have sufficient experience, knowledge and competence to effectively deal with my matter? What were the outcomes of any prior similar matters?
  • Options – What are my options? What can I apply for? What do you expect from me in relation to the service?  Could the fees be reduced by me doing some of the work, and what are the drawbacks in my doing some of the work?
  • Fees – What is the fee and what are the terms? If the fee includes a conditional refund, will you provide me with written information as to  how you propose to refund my money? Are there any other costs?

Requirement to be Registered

The law requires that migration agents operating in Australia be registered with the Migration Agents Registration Authority (“the Authority”).

The Authority regulates the migration advice profession and undertakes a range of functions as defined in s316 of the Migration Act 1958. These functions include:

  • processing applications for registration;
  • administering continuing professional development;
  • monitoring the conduct of registered migration agents; and
  • investigating complaints about, and taking appropriate disciplinary action against, registered migration agents who breach the Migration Agents Code of Conduct or otherwise behave in an unprofessional or unethical way.

People who practice in Australia as unregistered migration agents may be subject to penalties, ranging from fines of up to $5,500 to imprisonment for up to 10 years.