Using a Migration Agent in Australia

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Lifted from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Website.

Do I need to use an migration agent?

The department accepts all applications lodged, regardless of who lodges them. You are able to lodge any kind of visa application or asylum claim yourself and most applications can be lodged online.

However, if you do not feel confident in lodging an application, or if your case is complex, you may want to engage a registered migration agent to help you in your dealings with the department.

A migration agent cannot influence the outcome or fast-track the processing of your application or guarantee you a visa.

What are your obligations in lodging visa application?

You are responsible for the accuracy of information and supporting documentation provided as part of your application, even if you use a registered migration agent. If you make non genuine claims or provide false documents, your visa may be cancelled.

What is the rule on registration of agents in Australia?

In Australia, migration agents must be registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA). If you choose to use a migration agent, you should use a registered migration agent.

Registration gives you protection and helps ensure people working as migration agents are aware of current laws and procedures and give correct advice.

How to find a registered migration agent?

The Office of the MARA website has a list of all agents with a valid registration. Go to 'Find an Agent' and search by Personal Details (that is, Family Name, Given Name or Business Name) or Location Details (that is, Postcode, Suburb or Country).

The Office of the MARA website also provides information on:

(1) How to choose a migration agent
(2) What it costs to use an agent
(3) What to expect from an agent
(4) Making a complaint about an agent
(5) What the Office of the MARA can and cannot do for you
(6) Sanctioned agents
(7) Lapsed agents

When does migration agent notify the department?

If you have appointed an agent to act on your behalf, your agent will write to the department or use Form 956 to notify us. Your agent will ask you to sign and indicate at Q24 (Declaration by Client) on Form 956 that they have been appointed as your migration agent.

How does the department deals with your agent?

When you appoint an agent to act on your behalf, the department will do the following:

(1) Discuss your application with the agent and seek further information from them.

(2) Send any written communication about your application to your agent (that is, they will become your 'authorised recipient').

(3) Regard any written communication sent to the agent as being received by you.

What happens when you withdraw appointment of migration agent?

If you withdraw or terminate the appointment of your migration agent, they should advise the department in writing or using Form 956.

If Form 956 is used to notify the department, your migration agent will ask you to sign and indicate at Q24 (Declaration by Client) that they are no longer acting on your behalf.

If you appoint a new migration agent, they should notify the department using Form 956.

What is a migration agent?

A migration agent is a person who can:

(1) advise on immigration matters

(2) help you to prepare and lodge an application

(3) deal with the Department of Immigration and
Citizenship (the department) on your behalf, usually
for a fee.

What is the cost?

There are no set fees for their services. Information on
average fee ranges is available at www.mara.gov.au

Why use a registered migration agent?

Registered migration agents are required to:

• have a sound knowledge of migration law and practice
• act professionally and in a timely manner
• abide by the migration agent's Code of Conduct
• have appropriate insurance
• pass character tests (including criminal history checks).

If you have a problem with a registered agent, you can make a complaint to the Office of the MARA.

The procedure on how to make a complaint is available at www.mara.gov.au

Why shouldn't I use an unregistered person?

Unregistered people may:

• be unaware of current legislation and procedures
• provide incorrect advice
• make false claims about your chances of success.

Unregistered people are breaking the law and penalties of
up to 10 years jail can apply.

To report an unregistered person telephone 1800 009 623 (free of charge). Information provided will be treated in the strictest confidence.

What if I can't afford a registered migration agent?

Some community organisations may be able to help you.
You can find an organisation close to you by entering your
address or postcode in the 'Settlement Services Locator'
at www.immi.gov.au

What is Form 956?

This form should be used to notify the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (the department) that:

• you have been appointed by a client (eg. a visa applicant) to provide immigration assistance with matters under the Migration Act 1958 and, if applicable, to also act as the that person's authorised recipient; or

• your appointment has ended. (You may notify the department of this in writing if you prefer.)

What is immigration assistance?

A person gives immigration assistance if he or she uses, or claims to use, his or her knowledge or experience in migration procedure to assist a person with matters related under the Migration Act 1958.

The most common times assistance is provided is during visa application processes, visa cancellation processes, sponsorship processes (including monitoring or sanctions) or ministerial intervention requests.

Immigration assistance does not include simply filling in an application form, translating or interpreting or passing on information about an application without comment or explanation.

Who are non-registered migration agents outside Australia?

They are migration agents operating outside Australia and do not have to be registered with the Office of the MARA. The department may issue offshore agents with an identification number for administrative purposes only. This number does not mean that the agent is registered and it does not represent endorsement of the agent by the Australian Government.

Who need not be registered as migration agents in order to provide immigration assistance?

• a close family member (spouse, child, adopted child, parent, brother or sister of a visa applicant);

• a sponsor or nominator for a visa applicant;

• a member of parliament or their staff;

• an official whose duties include providing immigration assistance;

• a member of a diplomatic mission, consular post or international organisation.

As an exempt person you must not charge a fee for your service. In Australia, if you do charge a fee you are committing an offence and penalties of up to 10 years jail can apply.

Who are authorised recipients?

An authorised recipient is a person appointed to receive all written communications from the department on behalf of another person.

If you are not appointed as the authorised recipient, all written communication will be sent to the client or their appointed authorised recipient.

What does the migration agents Code of Conduct instruct agents to do?

Under the migration agents Code of Conduct you must:

• provide your client with an estimate of fees and a statement
of services;

• act with honesty, integrity and in a timely manner when dealing with clients or the department;

• maintain a sound and up to date knowledge of migration law and procedure;

• act lawfully in the best interests of your clients;

• provide relevant information with applications;

• notify clients and the department promptly of any changes to contact details;

• avoid or manage conflicts of interest.

What does the migration agents Code of Conduct instruct agents not to do?

You must not:

• intimidate or coerce any person for your benefit;

• encourage vexatious or grossly unfounded applications;

• represent that you can obtain a particular decision under the Migration Act or the Migration Regulations; or

• engage in misleading advertising.

What must a registered migration agent always do?

Under clause 2.1, Part 2 of the Code of Conduct for Migration Agents a registered migration agent must always:

(a) act in accordance with the law (including, for an agent operating as an agent in a country other than Australia, the law of that country) and the legitimate interests of his or her client; and

(b) deal with his or her client competently, diligently and fairly.

However, a registered migration agent operating as an agent in a country other than Australia will not be taken to have failed to comply with the Code if the law of that country prevents the agent from operating in compliance with the Code.

When must a registered migration agent refuse to accept a person as a client?

Under clause 21A, Part 2 of the CCMA a registered migration agent must not accept a person as a client if the agent would have any of the following conflicts of interest:

(a) the agent has had previous dealings with the person, or intends to assist the person, in the agent's capacity as a marriage celebrant;

(b) the agent is, or intends to be, involved with the person in a business activity that is relevant to the assessment of a visa application or cancellation review application;

(c) there is any other interest of the agent that would affect the legitimate interests of the client.

If it becomes apparent that a registered migration agent has a conflict of interest mentioned in clause 2.1A in relation to a client what must the agent do?

Under clause 21B, Part 2 of the CCMA the agent must, as soon as practicable taking into account the needs of the client, but in any case within 14 days:

(a) tell the client about the conflict of interest; and

(b) advise the client that, under the Code, the agent can no longer act for the client; and

(c) advise the client about appointing another registered migration agent; and

(d) cease to deal with the client in the agent's capacity as registered migration agent. A registered migration agent who has ceased to act for a client in accordance with paragraph 2.1B (d), must, as soon as practicable, but in any case within 14 days, inform the Department that he or she is no longer acting for the client.

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