Migration Agent 101

A cheatsheet regarding Australian Immigration Agent service

By Yogendra Poudel, Electrical Engineer | Immigrant since 2001 | Founder of MigrationQuotes.com.au

I am not a registered migration agent, but if you are looking for one who is, this cheatsheet is for you. 

As you will soon find out below, the reason I disclosed my status above is because, in Australia, it is illegal to provide immigration advice unless you’re a registered agent. Hence, in this cheatsheet, you will not find any immigration advice such as what visa option is right for you, or whether you qualify for skilled migration. That’s the job for Migration agents, which I am not.

Instead, I am simply going to give you few tips to help understand who Migration Agents really are, what role they play, and few other stuff…

In case you want to skip rest of this post and jump directly to where you can find migration agent, simply go here and fill out the form. Otherwise, keep reading…

Who is a Migration Agent?

A migration agent, sometimes known as immigration consultant, is a professional who advises on immigration matters such as assessing visa options, and assistance to apply for a visa. A migration agent is NOT the same as the immigration lawyer. 

What is a MARA agent?

MARA stands for Migration Agents Registration Authority. The office of MARA (in short, OMARA) is an office under the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (in short, DIBP). OMARA is the regulatory body for Migration Agents services. Their official website is www.mara.gov.au

All Migration Agents that advise on immigration matters are legally required to register with the office of MARA. Once registered, each agent is given a unique 7-digit registration number, also known as MARN in short. You can use MARN to look up an agent on this page, or you can go here to view if there are any public notices (complains, etc) on his/her behalf.

MARA agents are required to renew their license every year. If they fail, their license can be ceased. It is unlawful to provide migration advice without an active or valid registration with the office of MARA.

Do I need an immigration agent to apply?

You don’t need a migration agent to prepare or lodge your application. In fact, you can apply online at www.border.gov.au/immiaccount.

What can I expect from a migration agent?

That’s a great question. OMARA has guidelines on what to expect from a registered migration agent. Here is what it says:

Advice on your visa options: Only a MARA agent is qualified to assess your situation. If you give all the information your agent needs, a MARA agent can give you an honest assessment of your visa options. There may be some fee associated with this service.

Quote on service and fees : Before an agent starts working on your behalf, he/she will give you a written contract that will explain in details about the services and how much they will charge you. In other words, MARA agent will provide you a no obligation quote for your review.

Progress report: Some applications take longer than others. Regardless, migration agent must let you know about the progress of your application throughout the process.

Termination of contract: Either you or your agent can terminate the contract with a written notice. In such cases, you are entitled to get back money you paid in advance for service you didn’t receive. Likewise, the agent must return your documents within seven days of the termination.

If you want the full version of what to expect from a MARA agent, check out mara.gov.au

How much will an initial consultation cost me?

Many migration agents provide free initial consultation. But there are limits to this; the consultation lasts only up to thirty minutes, and in case you have a complex case, you will be only scratching the surface during this meeting.

Agents that charge fee for initial consultation can address your questions in more depth. Fees usually range anywhere from one hundred dollars up to few hundred dollars for 1-2 hours. Some MARA agents allow multiple consulting sessions for one single fee.

If you just need consultation before lodging application by yourself, and you are willing to pay for this one time consultation, you can request that service from us as well by going here >> Find agents for paid consultation 

What does it cost to use an agent?

I have written a separate post dedicated to answer this question, which you can read here.

Basically, the charges mainly depend on the type of visa, agent’s level of experience, and the time it takes to prepare for the application.

For example, in 2015, agents charged anywhere from $1800 to $5000 for temporary work visa (457) and up to $3800 for Parent Migration visa.

Because, each one’s case is so unique, the only way to find out how much yours will cost is by talking to one or more agents. Most agents we refer to don’t charge you for a quote.

Do I pay the fees upfront?

There are mainly two ways an agent collects fees:

After the service is completed, or,
Before the service start (in advance)

Rarely you’ll find an agent that agrees to wait until the end to collect their fees. The standard, for the most part, is payment in advance. Are you worried about paying upfront? Don’t be. Here’s why…

In advance payment method, once you make the payment to your agent, the agent will deposit that money in what’s called a Client’s account. You can imagine “client’s account” like a neutral account, where it’s like the bank holds that money. Your agent can withdraw your money from this account only with your permission once an agreed amount of work is completed.

How much they can withdraw at a time? And how often? That is all documented in the contract agreement. So, read your contract carefully before you sign.

If you want more information on how the disbursements are handled, here is a really good piece of document to read >> Link to the doc 

Are all MARA Agents the same?

There are more than 100 visa categories to apply for in Australia, which is quite a lot. I believe it will be fair to say that some MARA agents are better at certain visa categories than others.

For example, I know a migration agency that has 100% success rate with Partner visas, and they have been in business over 10 years.

Likewise, I know another migration agency that is really successful in helping students with their permanent skilled visa. If I ever had a need to apply for partner visa, I’d know which one to pick.

Although no migration agents can guarantee the success of your application, at MQ we deeply care about finding the right agent for your visa.

What is the advantage of talking to multiple MARA agents?

Office of MARA recommends that you talk to more than one migration agent before choosing one.  We agree 100%, and recommend that you meet as many as three agents (which you can request here). But, this is just a recommendation.

For example, if you have a complex case, seeking multiple opinions is usually a smart idea.

Most of the time, price is only one of the several factors when you decide. Depth of experience, customer service, follow ups, time to respond, and even office location can make an impact on who you choose to represent your case.

By talking to few agents, it is your chance to compare the market, and find the migration agent you like.

Can you help me find a MARA agent?

Sure, I can. That is what I do on this website. We are the largest referral network of Migration Agents in Melbourne. Just go here and tell me a little about yourself. I will match and forward your information to up to three hand-picked registered migration agents.

My service is free to you and there are no obligations attached. If you want to find out how I pick migration agents, you can read about that as well – over here >> How do we pick our migration agents at Migration Quotes?

Do you have a question I didn’t address above? You can write me an email at migration dot quotes at gmail dot com. Just remember, I can’t give you any advice related to your visa application.