How Does A Migration Agent Differ From A Migration Lawyer?

If you require immigration guidance, you need to see if the individual is a registered migration agent. If they are registered, they can offer immigration assistance regarding applications, cancellations, tribunal reviews etc. On the other hand, if they are not a registered consultant, they are legally prohibited from offering any kind of immigration information.

Who are Migration Agents and Migration Lawyers?

The Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) Bill changes things with respect to registered migration agents. There will be two groups of individuals: the first group being lawyers who can provide immigration assistance to you, without having to register as migration agents. They will be able to guide you in applications, cancellations, complex issues related to submission to the minister, advocacy before the tribunal, and also court representation. Lawyers can offer all of these services without registering as immigration agents. The second category of individuals is those who are not legally qualified but wish to provide valuable immigration assistance. These individuals are required to be registered under the Migrations Agents Regulation Authority (MARA) to allow you with required assistance in immigration-related concerns.

Major Differences between a Migration Agent and an Immigration Lawyer

Migration agents, registered with the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) can:

  • Can give counsel on visa prerequisites
  • May help with filing visa applications
  • Manage the Department of Home Affairs for clients

Migration agents regularly complete a year’s declaration or recognition in Australian Migration Law with a tertiary organization. Following this, they can enlist with MARA and practice as a movement specialist.

Always ensure that your migration agent is registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA). If you decide to choose someone registered within this governing body, you are sure to be working with a professional agent who is reliable, specialised in the field and offers appropriate guidance in visa matters.

Let’s have a look at some crucial pointers while you opt for an immigration lawyer or migration agent in Australia:

1. Qualifications:

If you are approaching a Migration Agent for your immigration assistance, ensure that they have completed a six-month training course and obtained a certificate after clearing the examination. They also need to be registered with OMARA.

If you are seeking the assistance of an immigration lawyer, you have to ensure that they have completed a Bachelor of Law degree with a duration not less than three years from a recognized university.

They must possess work experience and they are undertraining practical legal training. Make sure that they have already applied to the Supreme Court for admission as a lawyer and have applied to the Legal Practice Board for their practicing certificate. They must be registered with OMARA.

The Migration Amendment, also known as the Regulation of Migration Agents Bill (2018) has major implications for migration agents. This includes a two-year transition period of dual registration for migration agents who are lawyers, permitting them to continue to function in the field of immigration as agents who, in the meantime, will receive supervision as required for their legal practicing certificate too.

2. Knowledge:

Immigration lawyers, or attorneys, possess greater legal expertise than consultants. Migration lawyers must pursue law school and complete a three-year degree to become a lawyer. They are required to complete the bar exam to become legally registered.

Moreover, migration lawyers must undergo an internship period with a registered law firm during or upon competition of their studying period. Many law programs also need an undergraduate degree before the student can attend law school. This implies that lawyers usually possess many years of post-secondary education. 

Conversely, immigration agents are not lawyers. They do not pursue law school and usually undergo a one-year certification for registration purposes.  It is also not expected of immigration agents/consultants to have completed an undergraduate degree to kickstart their certification process. While immigration consultants are legally capable of representing you, only lawyers are permitted to advocate on your behalf in federal court.

3. Standards of conduct:

Migration agents are subject to:

  • The OMARA code of conduct.

Immigration lawyers are subject to:

  • The Legal Profession Act
  • The Law Society Ethical as well as Practice Guidelines
  • The OMARA code of conduct
  • The Legal Professional Conduct Rules

4. Services Provided:

An immigration lawyer is capable of offering identical services as a migration agent as well as legal representation in a court. This can also include advising on different legal subjects relating to immigration issues.

A migration consultant or agent can also assist with your application and all other related requirements. He/She can also appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). This will be with respect to a cancellation or refusal matter, as certain matters will need an appeal to be made in the Commonwealth Courts of Australia. In this particular case, a migration agent is not allowed to represent you in court.

Why Migration Agent or Immigration Lawyer?

1. Expertise advice:

Visa processing involves plenty of documentation which can be complicated for many people as they may not be aware of changes in immigration laws. This increases the chances of the application getting rejected due to the candidate being unable to meet the eligibility criteria or missing documents. 

Thus, it is always better to seek an expert’s advice who will confirm your suitability, help you understand the process as well as inform you on costs for tests such as language tests, police checks etc.

2. Accuracy in the documentation:

An immigration agency will have the technical know-how on how to approach application forms, supporting documents and other crucial documents. They can also correct mistakes in the application, thus saving your time.

3. Stress-free experience:

Migrating is a difficult experience. When you consult a migration consultant/agent or an immigration lawyer to help you out, the process becomes much easier.

Needs Migration has licensed migration agents who can guide you through the entire application process. Whether it be surfing your visa options or submitting an EOI, you can call them on 0423 670 879 or drop them an email at [email protected].


I am Selim Khan Dipu (Professional Blogger)