Should I hire an Immigration Lawyer or a Migration Agent?
Migration is an extremely important area of law in Australia as it is closely related to the public interest at large. For example, the improvement of socio-economy in a country through expansion of skilled professionals, the ability to reunite families or even to protect people from natural disaster or danger. For these reasons, the decision to migrate to another country has become costly and life changing to an immigrant.
In order to enhance your immigration opportunities, it is crucial to receive the best legal advice and representation throughout your visa application. The role of an immigration lawyer or migration agent is critical as their experiences in this area of law can affect your migration opportunities.
Generally speaking, an immigration lawyer is both a lawyer and a registered migration agent. However, a registered migration agent may not necessarily be qualified as an immigration lawyer.
To become a migration agent, one needs to:
1. Complete a graduate certificate in Australian Migration Law and Practice
2. Register with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA)
To be qualified as an immigration lawyer, one needs to:
1. Complete a Bachelor of Laws degree or Juris Doctor course
2. Complete a Practical Legal Training course and undertake work placement
3. Be admitted as a lawyer in the State Supreme Court
4. Apply for Practising Certificate under the Legal Practice Board of the State
5. Register as an immigration lawyer with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA)
Based on the differing academic skills required by each profession, it is apparent that the process of becoming a migration agent is faster and easier than becoming an immigration lawyer. It usually takes up to 6 months for a migration agent to obtain registration. Conversely, one must spend at least 3 years to be qualified as an immigration lawyer.
As we all know, immigration involves the flow of people between two countries and the legal rules surrounding this area of law are often presented in a complex manner. The Australian legal system is broadly covered by the Statute of Laws, Regulations, Court rulings of precedent cases, insights from professional organizations and so on. Although immigration law is a small part of the legal system, it is a complicated area of law as it involves a country’s national policies and the constantly changing legal rules. As Australia is within the Common Law system, court decisions are subject to precedent cases/court decisions. To be on top of these legal rules, the skills and knowledge required by an immigration lawyer are generally more in-depth when resolving client’s visa and immigration issues.
Often times, we always think that immigration lawyers and migration agents have similar roles when it comes to visa applications. This is not entirely wrong, however, their roles may differ significantly depending on your circumstances.
While migration agents can assist in visa applications and visa appeals to the Administrative Apeals Tribunal (AAT), migration agents are not allowed to represent clients for appeals in federal courts.
Immigration lawyers can provide the same services as migration agents. In addition, migration lawyers can represent clients in courts, advise on complex migration matters as well as providing advice on other legal matters.
Accordingly, choosing the right profession to assist you in your migration matter can be critical. If you are currently facing issues with your visa, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced immigration lawyers to assist you with your matter.
All registered migration agents are required to comply with the OMARA Code of Conduct.
However, a lawyer who is also a registered migration agent has additional ethical and professional standards to comply with. This includes:
• Legal Profession Act 2007 (Qld)
• Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules 2012
• Ethics and Professional Rules of the Queensland Law Society and so on.
In other words, an immigration lawyer is scrutinized by two regulatory bodies which set a higher standard to the conduct of a legal practitioner and also to ensure that each client’s legal matters are protected by the rule of law.
In all circumstances, immigration lawyers and migration agents are required to maintain clients’ confidentiality.
If a client is sued and the court requires an immigration lawyer to disclose any documents or information, the immigration lawyer will be protected by the legal professional privilege. In other words, the immigration lawyer does not have to disclose private documents or information of the client unless under exceptional circumstances.
Conversely, any documents or information disclosed to a migration agent is not protected by the legal professional privilege. If the court orders that information to be disclosed, migration agents must submit such documents or information.