What is a migration agent

What is a migration agent-

A Migration Agent is someone who can advise on visa requirements, help an applicant lodge a visa application and deal with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (“DIAC”) – on an applicant’s behalf, usually for a fee.

It is not compulsory for an applicant to use a Migration Agent, however a good agent should be able to add value to the application process, especially if the case is complex.

To be eligible for an adoption visa, the child must have been:

The impact of using an agent to help with your application can be quite large. A good agent will keep up to date with changes to Immigration laws, as even small changes can have a large impact upon your application. A good agent is also able to correctly interpret the visa criteria and know how DIAC will be likely to interpret it. With this knowledge they should be able to identify the right visa category and devise an appropriate strategy for how best to deal with the application.

A good agent will also be able to advise a visa applicant about the information required to ensure the application is properly documented. DIAC places increasing importance upon the need to have “decision ready” – applications at the time of lodgement. Applicants who do not provide all of the necessary supporting documentation will discover that their case takes longer to process than those that do, and might even ultimately face the possibility of rejection.

Choosing a Migration Agent

By way of background, it is necessary to understand how Australia’s immigration advice industry is structured. As a starting point, Migration Agents operating in Australia are required by law to register with the Office of the Migration Agent Registration Authority (OMARA). If contemplating appointing a Migration Agent, it is necessary to first establish that the person you are thinking of engaging is in fact a registered agent. This can be determined by searching the register of Migration Agents on the OMARA website at www.mara.gov.au.

Second, it is important be confident that the migration agent you choose to represent you has a full understanding of the meaning and impact of the Migration Law and Regulations. Australian Migration Law is constantly changing, and is amongst the most complicated of Australian Federal Laws.

To be registered as an agent a person must either be an Australian legal practitioner or have completed a Graduate Certificate in Australian Migration Law and Practice. The certificate course can be completed on a full time basis over one semester, whereas a law degree takes a number of years to complete and exposes students to a far broader range of legal related subjects. On the other hand, the holder of a law degree may not have necessarily have studied Administrative or Migration Law while at University. What all this means is that you should be very careful about how you go about selecting an agent to represent you. Often the best way is to make comprehensive enquiries regarding the reputation of the agent.

It is also interesting to note that unless lawyers are registered as Migration Agents they are prohibited from providing Immigration Advice. However, lawyers do not need to register if they are providing Immigration legal assistance, meaning that they are permitted to represent clients in court proceedings.

The OMARA web site does distinguish between agents who are Australian legal practitioners and those who are not. If a person believes that an understanding and interpretation of the law would be important to his or her application, it is best to obtain a list of names from the web site.

To complicate the situation even further, within the legal profession the various law societies have a concept known as “specialisation- – a process in which the special skills of a lawyer in a particular area of law are recognised.

In the State of Victoria, in order to become an accredited specialist in Immigration law, it is necessary to first demonstrate at least five years in the practice of law, and at least three years substantial experience in immigration matters. The solicitor must also supply references from other solicitors or barristers or other professionals working in the field which confirm the ability and experience of the accredited specialist.

A solicitor who seeks accreditation as a specialist in Immigration law is required to pass a written examination which tests knowledge of Immigration law across a broad variety of areas including:

  • Family Migration; or
  • Business Migration; or
  • Skilled Migration
  • Temporary Residence
  • Change of status for Visitors, Working Holiday Makers in the temporary visa classes.
  • Refugee applications
  • Citizenship law
  • Immigration Detention and Release
  • Avenues of appeal.
  • Options for illegal entrants.

In addition to sitting an exam, the solicitor seeking specialisation accreditation must also complete an assignment which involves the need to analyse and advise upon a difficult Migration scenario which might be referred to a specialist in the course of their ordinary business. A “mock interview- is also conducted in order to assess the solicitor’s interview and information gathering techniques.

How to Choose a Migration Agent

When making a decision about appointing a Migration Agent, it is necessary to be aware of the different types of agent and determine what level and level of skill and expertise may be necessary having regard to the complexity of the application. It is also highly recommended that you first speak with anyone you are proposing to appoint and be satisfied that the agent has sufficient practical experience in Migration generally, coupled with specific experience in the area of your concern.


If unhappy with a Registered Migration Agent’s service, it is always recommended that you try and resolve the differences with the agent, however if this is not possible a complaint can be lodged with the OMARA by accessing a complaint form from the OMARA website at https://www.mara.gov.au/Consumer-Information/Making-a-complaint-about-a-RMA/default.aspx