With starry dreams of emigrating to Australia and starting a better life in a western country, many Indians have become victims of fraudulent immigration lawyers and consultants.
To safeguard the interests of unassuming migrants moving to Australia, the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) have launched a multi-lingual guide to migration.
The booklet called Your Rights offers tips on using a registered migration agent and provides a valuable resource to protect migrant communities from unscrupulous operators.
Available in English as well as 17 major languages, the booklet can be downloaded from MARA website (www.mara.gov.au).
In Australia, it is illegal for anyone to give immigration assistance without being a registered migration agent.
“For your protection, make sure your agent is registered with the Office of the MARA,” says a departmental spokesperson. “This authority ensures only fit and proper people are registered migration agents.
“They must keep up-to-date with migration law, abide by a code of conduct, maintain proper communication records and pass police checks.”
Australia has over 4400 registered migration agents, based in Australia and overseas, who can provide immigration assistance.
If you are unhappy with the services of your registered migration agent, you can complain to the MARA.
“Making a complaint will not affect any visa application you have with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.”
MARA website contains a detailed list of all registered migration agents in Australia.
Also, for your protection MARA website – www.mara.gov.au – contains information about agents whose registration is suspended or cancelled by the Office of the MARA (sanctioned agents) and information about agents who are no longer registered (lapsed agents).
How to choose an immigration attorney
MARA offers some useful tips to consider while selecting an immigration agent for study in Australia or for permanent residence visa or any visa-related work.
Ask for a schedule of services: Before hiring an immigration lawyer, ask the migration agent for a contract or statement of services and an outline of fees applicable. “You should not sign the contract or statement of services until you fully understand the terms of the work to be done,” advises MARA. Ask questions to clarify anything you do not understand.
Ask questions: You can ask many questions to your potential immigration lawyer. Some key questions:
- Experience – What are your areas of expertise? Do you have sufficient experience, knowledge and competence to effectively deal with my matter? What were the outcomes of any prior similar matters?
- Options – What are my options? What can I apply for? What do you expect from me in relation to the service? Could the fees be reduced by me doing some of the work, and what are the drawbacks in my doing some of the work?
- Fees – What is the fee and what are the terms? If the fee includes a conditional refund, will you provide me with written information as to how you propose to refund my money? Are there any other costs?
What does it cost to use a Registered Migration Agent?
While MARA does not regulate the fees charged by Registered Migration Agents, these fees are expected to be reasonable.
All registered migration agents provide MARA with information on the average fees they charge. The MARA website offers a guide to the schedule of fees charged by a registered migration agent based on this data.
You may also consider seeking another opinion on your matter before signing or agreeing to the registered migration agent representing you.
What to expect from a migration agent?
Registered Migration agent must:
- have a sound knowledge of migration law and administrative practice relating to immigration
- abide by the Migration Agents’ Code of Conduct.
MARA has put some mandatary rules for registered immigration agents. All registered migration agents must:
- disclose their full fees and costs to their clients
- disclose the expected time needed to perform the services
- keep the client informed of the progress of their application
- provide detailed report about total costs of their application and all steps of the process
- keep all client information confidential
- not make misleading claims as to the likely success of the application.
The agent must also give you a copy of a booklet that explains your basic consumer rights. The booklet is called Information on the Regulation of the Migration Agent Profession.