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Difference between agents & lawyers

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Migrate to Australia

Difference between agents & lawyers

Only RMAs can legally give immigration assistance in Australia. An immigration lawyer may be an RMA or not. Immigration lawyers who aren’t RMAs can’t provide some forms of immigration assistance.” Immigration assistance” involves assisting with visa applications or other visa matters, including:

  • preparing, or helping to prepare, a visa, nomination, or sponsorship application; and,
  • advising a visa applicant or sponsor about a visa or sponsorship application or visa matter.

Which type of immigration consultant will help me achieve the best outcome for my application?

So you have made the big decision to migrate to Australia, maybe to work, study or to experience Australia’s beautiful sights. Now it is time to start the application process and choose how you will handle your migration matter.

It is perfectly acceptable to lodge your application; however, consulting an expert will increase your chances of receiving a positive outcome.

As the decision to migrate is both a costly and life-changing experience, choosing who to consult is an important step.

You need to be aware that there are essential distinctions between immigration lawyers and migration agents, some of which are not always clear to those seeking migration assistance.

It is important to remember that whether you choose to go with a migration agent or immigration lawyer, always ensure they are registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA). If you choose someone registered within this governing body, you are sure to be working with someone skilled, legitimate, and trustworthy.

In Australia, only an immigration lawyer or migration agent can provide migration-related services and advice to you. As listed below, five essential ways can help you decide which type of migration consultant you should engage with;

  1. Qualifications

Migration agents are required to:

  • Completed a 6-month training course and passed the exams;
  • Apply to be registered with OMARA.

Immigration lawyers are required to:

  • Complete at least a Bachelor of Laws degree (a minimum 3-year qualification);
  • Undertake practical legal training and work experience;
  • Apply to the Supreme Court for admission as a lawyer;
  • Apply to the Legal Practice Board of the State for a Practicing Certificate; and
  • Apply to be registered with OMARA.

However, once the Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) Bill 2018 is passed, this will mean the end of dual regulation for lawyers, with lawyers being removed from the MARA regulatory system.

The Bill will have implications for migration agents, including a two-year transition period of dual registration for migration agents who become lawyers, allowing them to continue operating their migration agent business as agents while receiving supervision as required for their legal practicing certificate.

Another significant impact of the Bill is expected to benefit existing lawyers now required to hold OMARA registration to provide clients’ migration advice. If the Bill is passed, any Australian lawyer holding a practicing certificate will be permitted to provide migration advice to clients just as they can in other law areas.

This will cause significant changes in the competitive environment the industry operates in, as there are over 70,000 lawyers in Australia and just over 7,000 migration agents, many of whom are also lawyers.

  1. Level of knowledge and skills

Immigration law is a highly complicated area in which the complex legislative and regulatory requirements governing the immigration framework are constantly evolving. Immigration law operates against a backdrop of extensive legislation, immense policy guidelines, and parliamentary directives, as well as over 150 visa categories.

Choosing a migration consultant with a legal qualification may prove critical to your application’s best outcome. Immigration lawyers are more likely to have a deeper understanding of the migration regime and are trained to apply the relevant laws.

  1. Claiming legal professional privilege

A significant distinction between migration agents and immigration lawyers surrounds this concept of ‘legal professional privilege.’ While migration agents must keep communication between themselves and a client confidential, only a lawyer can claim legal professional privilege.

This means that an immigration lawyer cannot disclose any of your details or communications to the Department of Home Affairs, even if they are requested to be used as evidence against you. Should you be investigated or prosecuted. However, any information you supply to a migration agent is not protected by legal professional privilege and thus will be bound to provide any of your details if requested.

  1. Standards of conduct

Migration agents are subject to:

  • the OMARA code of conduct.

Immigration lawyers are subject to:

  • the Legal Profession Act;
  • the Legal Professional Conduct Rules;
  • the Law Society Ethical and Practice Guidelines; and
  • the OMARA code of conduct.

The codes of conduct mentioned above have been created to protect clients and ensure that professional integrity is upheld. Immigration lawyers must meet more rigorous professional standards. They must re-register with two separate regulatory bodies each year.

This re-registration is achieved through the renewal of the Legal Practicing Certificate, requiring the completion of continuing professional development courses totaling 10 CPD points and the renewal of their registration with OMARA. The effect of this dual-registration ensures that immigration lawyers have a high level of continuing education, as well as a higher level of regulation governing the level of service expected of them.

  1. Extent of service

The services provided in migration matters are primarily related to giving advice and applying for your visa. However, it also includes appealing to Tribunals and Courts in any necessary review processes required for your migration decision.

Migration agents:

While a migration agent can assist you in the visa application process and appeals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) about a cancellation or refusal decision, certain matters require an appeal to be made in the Commonwealth Courts Australia. If this is the case, a migration agent is not permitted to represent you in court.

Immigration lawyers:

An immigration lawyer can provide the same services as a migration agent, in addition to being able to extend further assistance to you in full legal representation in the courts, as well as providing you advice on other legal matters relating to your immigration issues.

Migration law is a vital area of law in Australia and has profound legal implications for all individuals involved. This is why having the best legal advice and representation is critical to enhancing your migration opportunities.

For these reasons, it is essential that you know the experience of the migration consultant you wish to employ, whether they have previously handled cases similar to your own, and the longevity of their practice in the field.

It is also crucial to note that experience in dealing with the Department of Home Affairs can only be gained through previous experience, especially in complex matters requiring extensive communication with the Department and the review bodies. Ensuring your consultant is aware of these nuances in how the regulatory bodies operate is vital to maximizing your chances of achieving the best result.

If you are interested in moving to Australia, the immigration lawyers at FBP are qualified as Migration Agents and Immigration Lawyers. The team at FBP are experts in the field and will provide you with comprehensive legal advice on your migration matter, as well as on a range of issues related to the migration process. 

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