Aguilus Solutions

Choosing the Best Registered Migration Agent for You

Author: Joe Aguilus MBA, MBUS(IRHRM), GCertAusMigrationLawPrac

Studying or working abroad or emigrating to a new country is, to say the least, a major upheaval:  Separation from your family, coming to terms with a new culture, new ways of doing things, perhaps even a new language – all are challenges to be met and overcome once you have arrived in Australia.

Prior to this, there is the administrative red tape to satisfy to gain your right to live and work/study in Australia.  Of course, once there, the excitement of the new opportunities and experiences to be lived will remind you of the reasons for moving in the first place – the opportunity of a fresh adventure with new friends can be immensely appealing and Australia is an amazing place full of great people, a stunning environment and great climate, a country that offers wonderful opportunities.

But getting permission to live in Australia in the first place can be daunting without the assistance of a registered migration agent; and, there are many such agents working to support students, workers and immigrants looking to come to Australia, and selecting the right one for you can be a difficult decision to make – so I am going to look at some of the criteria you can employ to make that important choice a little easier.

Should you use a Registered Agent?

While it is not a requirement to use a registered agent, I would highly recommend you do so as doing it yourself will probably have a steep learning curve and may hinder obtaining the result you are looking for as the process of applying to study, work or live in Australia is complicated. Australia is a popular country for people wishing to emigrate to, or study or work in and the expert knowledge of the process that an agent will bring will speed things up, possibly offsetting some cost in the process, and make success far more likely; and, an agent will review your application and advise early of any potential negative outcomes thereby saving you money, time and emotional stress.

Which type of Registered Agent should you use?

The migration advice industry is one of the most highly regulated in Australia and all official agents in Australia must be registered with the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA). Membership of MARA means that agents have appropriate qualifications and are recognised by the Australian authorities and it offers additional protection as registered agents must continually demonstrate a high standard of understanding of current legislation and procedures. While most Migration Agents are based in Australia, it is also possible to find registered agents located outside Australia. If you want to find a registered agent based in your country, you can go to the MARA website and use the ‘Search for an agent’ option and you will find a list of agents appropriately registered but based outside of Australia.

Choosing an agent who is based in your homeland could be beneficial if you want face to face meetings, if there might be language difficulties or you wish to avoid problems with time differences – though these should not be a major problem in any case for an Australian based agent with the easy communication tools offered by the likes of Skype, Google Hangouts and WeChat; and, choosing an agent based in the area you wish to move to can be helpful once your migration is complete.

The MARA website has a complete list of registered agents and you will quickly discover that some agents offer multiple services (these are sometimes referred to a ‘hybrid’ agents), some are specialist commercial operations, others work purely for the disadvantaged, and the website offers a selection tool to filter on these groups. Please note that registered migration agents are not necessarily lawyers and there is no requirement to hold such qualifications, rather the ongoing registration requirements for Migration Agents is to constantly keep up to date with the immigration requirements for Australia.

All migration agents in Australia have to be appropriately qualified, so it is the extra experience and qualifications that an agent holds is where you can find additional value, for example I am often able to leverage my HR, IR and business experience and qualifications when advising both individual and business clients; and in addition to the immigration legalities, there are always other considerations to be addressed such as the best location for you in Australia, your best accommodation options, what employment opportunities exist and how to find them, how to take advantage of the most appropriate transport options and ongoing support as you settle into the local community of your choosing.

Using sources other than the MARA Website

While the website provides detailed and excellent independent advice, it is not aware of the circumstances of each individual applicant, and it does not know individual agents in enormous detail.  If you have friends or family already in Australia, you get them to do some investigation on your behalf.  If your employer is sponsoring you, or you have other business contacts, then leverage them as people are generally more than happy to help.  Equally, you could well have Australian contacts in your home country who might be able to provide some information about individual agents, there is nothing to be lost by asking.

If you can, try to Short-List Possible Agents

An experimental search for Adelaide revealed 174 registered agents.  Selecting from these for somebody living far away is always going to be a challenge.  However, using all the information you, or your contacts, have or can find – create a short-list of three to five agents.  Then contact these and open a dialogue about the services they can provide, the expected timeframes and the associated costs (remember, cheapest does not necessarily equate to best value).  Ask them about some successful cases and see if they can put you in touch with clients who can provide references; and, ask about the extra experience, qualifications and skills that is relevant to your application that your agent holds.  Their answers and their willingness to discuss options will allow you to determine if they are the right agent for you.

In Summary

I strongly recommended that you:

  • Use a registered migration agent
  • Create a short-list of likely agents and interview them to select the best one for your situation
  • Look at what additional skills and abilities each agent can leverage on your behalf during and after the application process
  • If you are an employer, selecting an agent with a background in business, IR and HR is a good way to get best advice and support.

And, in closing, I hope that Australia will soon be your new home and all of your dreams come true.

About the Author:

Joe Aguilus is a Principal Registered Migration Agent (MARN:1799984) who specialises in Australian visa and citizenship application processing to assist employers and individuals based in Australia and overseas.

Joe has a human resources, industrial relations and business background. He worked both in the private and Australian Government agencies, for example, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (aka Department of Home Affairs) as a Case Officer and a Senior Case Officer where he was responsible for making decisions on a wide variety of visa categories and citizenship applications; and, more recently he has been worked in the migration advice industry in various capacities assisting with visa, sponsorship and citizenship applications for individuals and employers.

Additionally, Joe has a Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Business (Industrial Relations & Human Resources Management) and postgraduate qualification in Australian Migration Law & Practice; over ten years’ experience as an accomplished strategic business partner, including tenure as a non-executive director for local community organisations; and, has provided leadership in identifying business needs and solutions for small, medium and large organisations across a range of industries in both the public and private sectors.

Disclaimer: All views expressed on this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or be affiliated.

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