Should I use a migration agent to handle my application to migrate to Australia from the U.S.?
July 17, 2011 7:09 PM   Subscribe

Should I use a migration agent to handle my application to migrate to Australia from the U.S.? And if so, what's the best way to go about finding a good one?

I'd like to apply to move, permanently, to Australia. I'd be doing this under the general skilled migration route. I see mixed advice about using migration agents to help with the process. Some people recommend it, but others say it's a waste of money if your application is straightforward. I don't think my application will be very complicated, but I'm unsure about the skills assessment portion. While I have a degree, it's not in the field I would be applying under (Software Engineer/Developer), though I do have considerable work experience in the area. Also, my grandmother was an Australian war bride who moved to the U.S. and subsequently lost her citizenship (I think). Apparently some of the laws involving war brides changed a few years ago so I'd be curious if that has any impact on my application.

So, is it worth using a migration agent? And if so, does anyone have any recommendations for finding an agent?
posted by milkcrateman to Law & Government (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
does anyone have any recommendations for finding an agent?

Here's a starting point.

In Australia, migration agents must be registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority. Registered Migration Agents are bound by a Code of Conduct and are required to have an in-depth knowledge of Australian migration law and procedure and meet high professional and ethical standards.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:23 PM on July 17, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks UbuRoivas. I guess I should have mentioned I've had a look at the MARA site already, but was feeling a bit overwhelmed by wading through the search results there, especially since they seem a bit broad unless you already know the name or location of the agent.

I guess as a follow up question, does it make sense to find an agent in the city you plan on living in? I would be moving to Melbourne. In fact, I'm going to be there for about a week in early August. Would it be advisable to line up some agents to meet in person?
posted by milkcrateman at 9:45 PM on July 17, 2011

Best answer: I have some personal experience with the Australian immigration system (my husband applied for a visa, then permanent residence, then citizenship, and I have had to deal with them to try to get PR too). My experience has been that unlike in other countries where I have tried to get visas, etc, (Germany, Denmark), the actual service people at the Immigration counters are INCREDIBLY helpful. They will answer all your questions, look stuff up for you, find out about obscure rules. They don't seem to have the attitude that they are there to try and keep people out, but rather that they are there to help you get what you are entitled to. (Sadly, if you are a refugee, and possibly if you are non-white or not a good English speaker, this probably doesn't apply).

So my suggestion would be that unless it is very time-sensitive, you should try through normal channels first. Ask all your questions to Immigration directly - via email if you must, but in person is probably best. If you start having trouble, THEN go via a migration agent.
posted by lollusc at 10:10 PM on July 17, 2011

Oh, I have heard less-awesome things about the Melbourne Immigration people, but that was a few years ago, so hopefully things have changed. If there are multiple offices you can go to, you might find one to be more helpful than another.
posted by lollusc at 10:11 PM on July 17, 2011

Best answer: To add to what lollusc said, the Department of Immigration & Citizenship (DIAC) are very open & transparent - you shouldn't have a whole lot of difficulty working out your points or any of the rules, from publically available information there.

If there are any grey areas in your application (like the education v professional experience issue that you mentioned) then you may be able to find answers from published decisions from the Migration Review Tribunal - this is the first point of judicial appeal against DIAC decisions, and they provide some further clarity on interpretations. MRT decisions are more easily searchable here.

Or if you can't find a clear answer, at least you can arm yourself with some questions & background knowledge for a potential meeting with an agent.

These guys might be worth a call.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:35 PM on July 17, 2011

How good are you at research and paperwork?
posted by skermunkil at 11:41 PM on July 17, 2011

Best answer: Our case was a bit unusual because we were already in Australia when we decided to apply for a residential visa. We used an agent and I'm very glad we did. He helped us get all our information together, and when our application was complete he arranged an expedited clearance for us so we did everything in one interview - which he attended, thrusting documents at the interviewer on demand.

His assistance wasn't cheap: as I recall he charged around $2,000? But it was a lot cheaper than having to leave the country and apply from the USA. You can MeMail me for his contact details if you like.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:06 AM on July 18, 2011

Response by poster: lollusc - Thanks for that input. I'm starting to wonder if it's worth it for me to hire a migration agent based on info like this. Were you dealing with them from outside Australia?

UbuRoivas - Cool, thanks! I'll have a look at those links, especially the last one.

skermunkil - I mostly despise paperwork, but I'm pretty thorough about it when I have to do it. :) The biggest stresses come when I'm unsure about a specific portion of it.

Joe in Australia - Thanks, I'll MeMail you for that info. Yeah, I'm prepared for it to be kind of expensive, so the cost isn't an issue so much, but if having an agent isn't necessary I'd rather avoid the cost.
posted by milkcrateman at 11:40 AM on July 18, 2011

Best answer: Here's my experience with Australian immigration:

We were applying for a spousal visa and it meant collecting all sorts of evidence that probably isn't a factor in most applications: bills that were in our names jointly, photos of us together, things like that. I'm not sure if the application form gave examples of the sorts of evidence needed, but our agent helped keep us focused on having examples from all sorts of different categories. He told us a story of an application getting knocked back because the marriage was allegedly in July (or whenever), but there was a photo in front of some tulips. "Tulips don't grow in July, you're lying to me." I may have the dates wrong.

My experience with the actual immigration officer was that he was very efficient, very humorless, not the sort of person you want to joke around with (I nearly derailed the process by trying to make a joke). Our agent had everything collated in this huge folder and handed over pieces of evidence as the officer demanded them. I don't think we'd have been organised enough to pass the interview without him. On the other hand, I presume that a work-related application would be easier and less subjective than one which is trying to establish whether a personal relationship is "bona fide".
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:03 PM on July 18, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all for the answers!

Joe in Australia - I've also heard a couple of horror stories about people trying to get a visa for a spouse in Australia. Definitely sounds like a situation that you'd want a migration agent for. Glad it worked out for you.
posted by milkcrateman at 11:47 PM on July 18, 2011

In reply to your question, our initial dealings (for work visa) were from outside Australia, but our most recent ones for permanent residence and then citizenship, were from inside the country. That made it a bit easier, but the people we talked to on the phone and by email when we were overseas were also very helpful.
posted by lollusc at 2:42 AM on July 20, 2011

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