Marino Law | Gold Coast Law Firm

Migration Agents -V- Immigration Lawyers, Know the difference

In Australia, only Migration Agents, registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (‘OMARA’) and Migration Lawyers (or ‘Solicitors’) are permitted to provide immigration-related assistance and advice. So what’s the difference and which one should you use?

When seeking immigration assistance, it is imperative you engage an appropriately qualified individual, as even the slightest of errors may have dire and life-long impacts on your immigration future.

Whilst there may be a number of suitably qualified migration agents authorised to practice in Australia, there are several reasons why a solicitor may be more beneficial to engage in the long-term.

So, why choose a solicitor over a migration agent?

Whilst there may be a number of suitably qualified migration agents authorised to practice in Australia, there are several reasons why a solicitor may be more beneficial to engage in the long-term.

  1. Level of Qualification

The intricate legislative and regulatory requirements governing the immigration framework make migration law a highly complex field. There are over one hundred (100) different types of visas available for Australia and Australian migration law is governed by a broad range of laws, detailed policy directives, and parliamentary orders.

Whilst migration law in Australia is incredibly complex, migration agents are only required to undertake a course of study for as little as twelve (12) months to become registered with OMARA.

In comparison, to practice as a solicitor in Australia, an individual first must obtain a bachelor’s qualification from a recognised Australian university which takes a minimum of three (3) years to obtain. Thereafter, a graduate must undertake a Graduate Diploma in Practical Legal Training, apply for admission to the Supreme Court in the State or Territory in which they wish to practice, and apply to the Legal Practice Board for a Practicing Certificate, before undertaking a period of supervised practice for a minimum of two (2) years. Finally, a solicitor must then apply for an unrestricted practising certificate from their relevant legal Practice Board before they are then authorised to practice independently.

Therefore, solicitors are required to undertake study and training that far exceeds that of a migration agent, meaning they are not only legally qualified to practise migration law, but also have a deeper understanding of the Australian legal and immigration system gained through the wealth of legal education and training.

  1.  Legal Professional Privilege

Your confidential communications with your solicitor are protected by ‘Legal Professional Privilege’, so that you can speak freely and without fear of disclosure. Solicitors are also subject to the Legal Profession Act, the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules 2012 and the Law Society Ethical and Practice Guidelines. This means that your solicitor is both morally and legally accountable to high ethical standards when it comes to the service you receive.

The OMARA Code of Conduct for Registered Migration Agents governs how migration agents must act for you. While the OMARA Code of Conduct provides clients with a certain level of confidentiality it is important to note that any information you give a migration agent is not covered by legal professional privilege, and thus, a migration agent is required to disclose any of your information upon request by a relevant authority. However, a solicitor is not permitted to reveal any of your communications or personal information (except under very limited circumstances) to the Department of Home Affairs, even if this information has been requested to be used as evidence against you, in the event that you are under investigation or are being prosecuted.

  1. A Broader Range of Services

Generally, individuals will seek assistance from an immigration specialist (be it a migration agent or solicitor) for the provision of tailored and detailed advice pertaining to their personal circumstances and the preparation and lodgement of applications. Additionally, when a refusal has been issued by the Department of Home Affairs, immigration specialists can assist with the preparation and lodgement of an appeal with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

Whilst less common, if a refusal is affirmed by the AAT, a secondary appeal can be lodged with the Federal Circuit Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA), the Federal Court of Australia (FCA) and the High Court of Australia. Only solicitors and barristers can assist you with an appeal with the Australian courts. There is a real benefit to continuity of service when it comes to circumstances such as this, as you will not find yourself having to seek new representation as your case will already be well-established with your existing solicitor.  

Migration law encompasses a variety of other legal areas, and it is important to remember that only solicitors are permitted to practise law in Australia. At Marino Law, you can rest assured that our firm is not only able to assist you with all of your migration matters but also that, as a full-service firm, we have a number of other legal specialists readily available, meaning we truly are with you all the way.

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