Who can give you advice on Australian immigration?
You’ve decided to uproot your family and move to Australia. You’re leaving loved ones and a life you know behind. You’re venturing into the unknown – and you’re going to spend a big chunk of your life savings doing so.
Given all this, who are you going to approach for advice on Australian immigration?
Should it be anyone? The answer is a definite ‘no’. ‘Anyone’ can’t accurately assess your chances of immigration. ‘Anyone’ won’t be able to explain the risks to you. ‘Anyone’ might very well take your money and disappear.
So who should you ask for advice on Australian immigration?
The golden rule
When it comes to moving yourself and your family halfway across the world to Australia, you should only deal with agents who are licensed and registered with the Migration Agent Registration Authority (MARA).
Only a licensed and registered agent is able to deliver the full set of services you’d require for a successful immigration:
- Explain the visa options available to you, assess your chances accurately and recommend a suitable visa option.
- Record your migration pathways and process in writing.
- Explain the risks involved to you.
- Ensure you know your rights with regards to complaints, billing and codes of conduct.
- Prepare documents for your visa application.
- Lodge a well-prepared application with all required documents, which can make it easier and faster to get a decision from the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (IDBP).
- Contact DIPB or other organisations to discuss or ask questions about your application.
Now you’re probably asking yourself…
How do I know when someone is a registered immigration agent?
It is quite simple. Just go straight to the MARA website and click ‘Find an agent’.
From here you can do a search for an immigration agent by:
- Business location;
- Business name;
- The agent’s name; and/or
- The agent’s Migration Agent Registration Number (MARN). All fully licensed immigration agents for Australia has a MARN.
You can further verify an agent’s status by looking for their MARN number on their website. It is compulsory for all registered immigration agents for Australia to clearly display their MARN numbers on their website.
What does this mean? If you cannot see a MARN number on the agent’s website and you cannot find the agent on the MARA register, do not use their services!
It is illegal for any Australian-based company or individual to give you advice on Australian immigration or services related to visa applications if they are not registered.
Proceed with caution when approaching agents outside of Australia…
While the MARA website is an excellent tool to use to check whether a company or individual is registered, it unfortunately does present a shortcoming when dealing with agents outside of Australia.
This is because companies or individuals outside of Australia do not have to be registered with MARA.
Here is what you should look out for when dealing with agents outside of Australia – a DIBP number.
But it’s not what you think:
A DIBP number will often be presented as a type of license or endorsement from the Australian authorities.
It is not!
DIBP numbers are only issued for administrative purposes to companies and individuals outside Australia. This number does not entitle the company or person presenting it to you give advice on Australian immigration!
DIBP numbers expose you to huge risks
Many within the immigration industry has voiced their concerns about the provision of DIBP numbers, as it exposes the public to huge risks. The below is an extract from Australian Immigration News:
“When is the DIBP going to do something about unregistered practice? When is DIBP going to help prevent vulnerable consumers from being duped by the DIBP’s ‘Offshore ID’ status given out to unregistered agents? These ID’s are being used to sell a range of immigration services to unwitting visa applicants, not just students.
The ‘Offshore ID’ is paraded around as an endorsement tool by unregistered agents overseas looking to instill confidence and security in potential clients who may be seeking to migrate to Australia. The issue is that most of the time, the potential clients don’t even realise that there is such a thing as a RMA in existence on the planet. We can thank the OMARA and their $0.00 spend on advertising last financial year for that one. If migrants see a person with an ID, they, like me, would automatically assume that this person was a government endorsed immigration professional. Who knows what spin and lies are being sold to these unsuspecting visa applicants about how that ‘offshore ID’ was obtained.”
In short – do not deal with someone with only a DIBP number. This person is not under obligation to undertake qualifications, continue their professional development or prove their experience and cannot be held accountable. If anything goes wrong during your immigration process, there would most likely be very little you’d be able to do about it.
This is not where you stop your research into an immigration agent though…
Your options when it comes to licensed and registered agents
During your research you’ll come across these scenarios:
- Companies that employ the services of a consultant as an immigration agent.
- Companies that employ immigration agents, or that is owned or managed by immigration agents.
Which one should you pick for advice on Australian immigration? Ultimately the choice is yours, but let’s look at both scenarios:
- The company who employs an immigration agent as a consultant
Firstly it is important to note that licensed Australian immigration agents are permitted to act as a consultant to other companies and individuals.
Now that you know that, it is your responsibility to check that the immigration agent is in fact licensed and registered. As before, you can do this on MARA’s website, only this time you’re doing a search for the company’s name that you’re dealing with.
This search will reveal the licensed agent’s name and you should click on it to see what the business relationship is between the agent and the company. The search results will state when an agent is acting as a consultant.
Your search will also reveal whether or not the agent also run their own business or is involved in other businesses.
Now you’d want to move on to look at the relationship between yourself, the agent and the company you’re dealing with. Ask the following questions from the company:
- Who is giving you the advice?
- Is it in written form?
- Between which parties is your instructing mandate?
- Where is your money going – to the company or to the agent’s client account? (It should always be a client account!).
- The company who employs or is owned or managed by licensed immigration agents
Here the immigration agent works at the company you’re dealing with. This means you have a direct line to the agent. It also means the agent is dedicated to the company and their clients; the agent’s interests and attention are not divided.
This direct relationship means:
- You are getting advice on Australian immigration directly from the migration agent.
- You get your immigration advice in writing from the migration agent.
- The instructing mandate is between you and the licensed migration agent.
Your money is going to the company or licensed immigration agent’s account.
The biggest take-out here? Accountability, accountability, accountability! And when someone is accountable for a service they deliver, they are far more likely do their job to the best of their abilities.
Of course you should also still check the licensed immigration agent’s credentials before you take their advice on Australian immigration!
How does Intergate work?
Intergate is a company that employs licensed immigration agents. Our agents for Australia are Katrin Maja O’Flynn and Maike Versfeld. You can view their details on MARA’s website here and here.
As licensed agents, our agents adhere to Immigration Australia’s strict code of conduct. This binds us to certain ethical obligations, which means our approach to your immigration is logical and step by step:
- We do not demand large upfront payments from you or make false promises.
- We commence by assessing whether or not there is a visa option that you qualify for.
- Only if this outcome is positive, do we move on to items such as the Expression of Interest or IELTS and finally the compilation and submission of your application.
Sound familiar? Yes, it should. That’s everything we said earlier only a registered immigration agent can offer you – assess your chances accurately, recommend a suitable visa option, explain the risks involved, prepare and lodge your application.
Need more reasons to ask us for advice on Australian immigration?
How about the fact that as registered immigration agents we have professional indemnity insurance, which means you can sue if our migration agents get it wrong?
Or that as registered immigration agents we have access to LegendCom PAM resources, which means that we have access to the inner workings of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection?
Or that as registered immigration agents we adhere to strict accounting rules and keep your money in a client account until services are delivered?
But why don’t you call us and talk to us directly? You can contact us on +27 (0) 11 234 4275 8200 or +27 (0) 21 202 8200. Alternatively, simply send us an email.
Emigration to Australia is huge investment for you and your family, emotionally and financially. Don’t be caught be bogus agents or agents outside of Australia who are not MARA registered. You’ll risk a lot and lose even more!
Ensure that you secure the services of a licensed and registered agent for Australia. In this way you’ll increase your chances of qualifying with the correct professional help and guidance and with the full reassurance of Immigration Australia.