What the changes mean and 6 questions to ask your migration lawyer or migration agent

What is happening with the deregulation of immigration services in Australia?

From 22 March 2021 the Australian immigration services industry is changing the way it does business. Deregulation means Australian lawyers offering immigration law services no longer have to hold dual registration as Migration Agents to provide immigration assistance to clients.

Craddock Murray Neumann welcomes this change as it eliminates duplication and simplifies bureaucratic requirements for our immigration lawyers (all of whom held dual qualifications as lawyers and Registered Migration Agents). Less admin means CMN’s immigration lawyers can focus their attention on delivering quality services to our clients.

What is the difference between a Registered Migration Agent and a migration lawyer?

One of the key differences between Registered Migration Agents and immigration lawyers is that Registered Migration Agents are not qualified to give legal assistance. A Registered Migration Agent may need to refer your immigration matter on to a lawyer if legal advice or representation (e.g. preparing for Court or going to Court) is required in your case. CMN’s immigration law team can provide you with all levels of migration services and legal assistance.

The requirements to register and practise as an immigration lawyer and a Registered Migration Agent are also different.

To practise as an immigration lawyer in Australia practitioners must hold the minimum qualification of a Bachelor Degree in Law (or equivalent) plus complete further professional on-the-job training or studies. 

A lawyer will then be admitted to practice law by the Supreme Court of a relevant state and hold a practising certificate issued by the Law Society of the state in which they work. Lawyers are subject to ongoing supervision and regulation by that Law Society. 

By contrast the qualifications required to register as a Migration Agent are simpler. Registered Migration Agents are required to complete a Graduate Diploma in Australian Migration Law and Practice and what is known as a Capstone Assessment. 

The work of Registered Migration Agents is overseen by the Australian Government’s Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority.

What do these changes mean for immigration law clients?

Deregulation means that migration clients will have more choice of providers.

Lawyers practising in migration law will not have to separately register as Migration Agents, while migration agents who are not lawyers will continue to maintain their status as Registered Migration Agents. 

This may result in lawyers without prior experience practising immigration law entering the market. 

What should clients look for in an Immigration Lawyer or Registered Migration Agent?

If you are seeking advice or representation for a visa, citizenship or other immigration matter, you should continue to exercise discretion when choosing your service provider. 

While more choice is always good for immigration clients, a provider with the right expertise, qualifications and experience is critical to ensure you receive accurate and timely advice and representation. 

6 key questions to ask your Immigration Lawyer or Registered Migration Agent post deregulation

  1. Are you offering migration services as a lawyer or as a Registered Migration Agent? There are many types of immigration matters both immigration lawyers and Registered Migration Agents can assist with, but only lawyers can provide legal assistance, such as preparing for and going to court.
  2. How long have you been providing immigration law services in Australia? With many new providers expected to enter the market in 2021 it is important you put your matter in the hands of an experienced provider; you don’t want to pay someone to learn on the job.
  3. What experience do you have with my particular type of immigration issue? It is recommended to engage with an immigration provider who has experience with your particular type of visa, citizenship or other immigration matter. Many visa matters are time sensitive, and much time and angst can be saved by engaging with an experienced provider from the outset.
  4. Can you walk me through your process for handling immigration matters such as mine? Most experienced immigration providers will be able to explain the best-practice steps required to manage your immigration matter, and expected timeframes. If the provider’s responses seem vague or you feel uncertain about what will be involved in managing your immigration matter, it may be that their process is not well developed or does not align to best practice.
  5. How much will my immigration matter cost? Be wary of any immigration provider who will not provide clear pricing information or an estimate of fees once they have taken your instructions. Your immigration provider should clearly communicate the costs associated with your matter from the beginning, and throughout the process. 
  6. Are your fees fixed for immigration matters? Depending on the complexity of your immigration matter, experienced immigration providers (with clearly defined processes) will usually have a range of fixed fees for ‘standard’ immigration services. If the provider you are working with is not prepared to offer fixed fees for straight forward immigration matters, it may pay to seek a second opinion.

We hope this blog has answered some of your questions about the best ways to engage with immigration service providers. Our experienced immigration lawyers are ready to help.

Speak with our immigration experts

If you have further questions about the 2021 changes to the immigration industry or would like to discuss a visa, citizenship or other immigration matter, please contact us for expert advice on your immigration needs.