A look at dodgy, unqualified, and unregistered agents.
Frauds and ripoffs are in all industries Migration and International Study are no exception. Following is a little advice to help you make the right decision on who to use when applying for that visa or following the student process. Using a Pirate for Migration Purposes is like giving a donkey a scalpel and asking it to perform heart surgery.
What is a Qualified Registered Migration Agent
A MARA Migration Agent
- has a MARA number that you can look up at www.mara.gov.au . At this site you can see a photo, location and email address. If someone claims they are but they are not on that Government website, they are not registered. Run away.
- has professional indemnity insurance to protect you.
- maintains a professional library and access to the latest legislation.
- studied Migration Law at University and completed a capstone assessment.
- must complete significant professional development every year (extra migration courses)
- is bound by a Code of Conduct.
- has been through the Australian Federal Police and background checks to ensure integrity of the individual and profession.
- meets English requirements – very important since the Migration Act is all in English as is our communication with the Department of Home Affairs.
Registered Migration Agents (and some exempt persons) are the only people legally allowed to provide Migration Advice in Australia. Education Agents are not exempt persons. Unless also registered with MARA, Your education Agent is not qualified to tell you about the right visas. If you have any doubt about the person advising you, please read the following document
Student / Education Agents
Education Agents help a person to enroll in an education institution. They make their money from commissions from the schools they enroll you into. This is important and most I have met know the Education system very well. Being an Education agent does not mean they are also Migration Agents though. They are not qualified or legally allowed to give Migration Advice unless they are also Registered with MARA as a Migration Agent. If an Education Agent cheats you, makes a mistake or gives bad advice, you don’t have a Government Department and their insurance to back you up. Good luck fixing it.
Then there are Migration Agents who are also Education Agents. They have the knowledge and can legally advise/manage the whole visa and enrollment process.
There are people onshore in Australia who are not Registered with MARA (or are not exempt) and are giving Migration Advice. What they are doing is illegal. You may think that Australian law will protect you – I think it will not. We see it on the news regularly about a worker or student being ripped of and nothing happens to the so called Agent.
There are some people onshore who are Student Agents who will tell you that Student Agents are allowed to give Migration Advice related to study. They are NOT. At best, they can
- do clerical work to prepare (or help to prepare) an application or other document.
- provide translation or interpretation services if qualified.
- advise another person that they must apply for a visa.
- pass on information produced by a third person, without giving substantial comment on or explanation of the information.
Then there are the offshore agents.
Note that there are a number of Registered Migration Agents who operate offshore. I know quite a few who are very good Migration Agents. If they show up in the www.MARA.gov.au website, they are real. Be sure to check the details though. It is common practice for pirates to claim that they are someone else or use a genuine agent’s MARN number. There are also genuine Education Agents who operate offshore. We are not saying everyone who operates offshore is a pirate.
It is very well known however that there are a lot of people offshore who take advantage of people, trick them, and steal their money. Let’s look at some of the well known scams and techniques:
- The Embassy has become aware of a scam involving the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Victims claim to have received an email from this address guaranteeing a visa for Australia. Victims have reported paying substantial amounts of money to the sender in order to obtain a visa for Australia. Systems checks have confirmed that no visa applications have been received by the Department of Home Affairs for the victims.
- ‘Australian Government’ letter scam The Australian Embassy is also aware of clients being issued with a letter from the ‘Australian Government’ relating to a refugee application. The postal address on these letters is recorded as 203 Castlereagh St, Sydney. Please note that this is a scam and the Australian Embassy had no part in issuing these letters.
- The Department is aware of individuals and agents who are attempting to organise ETAs/Visitor visas and flights to Australia for people to work illegally. The agent tells their clients that they can work on these visas. You cannot work on a subclass 600 visitor, ETA or eVisa.
- Visa holders receiving calls out of the blue from someone pretending to be from an Australian government agency or department, and claiming that there is a problem with their ‘Citizenship and Immigration Services Alien’ (CISA) number or card. The scammer will demand that the person pay an upfront fee – usually around $900 – or risk deportation.
- Scammers will tell you that you can buy PR for $20,000+. Once you have given over all your ID and money they will give you fake receipts and a fake visa notification. The victims don’t find out until they are stopped at the airport in their country.
- More recently, some non qualified persons told many many potential students that their average English test score was suitable to come here and learn nursing and eventually get PR. These ‘agents’ did not realise that average score is only enough to be able to study. They won’t get placement or assessment without a much higher score. Many lives were ruined because of this.
- Some agents may claim that they have a special arrangement with an Immigration Officer or Delegate of the Minister in another country. They just may do and maybe actually can guarantee that you’ll get the visa if you pay the bribe. These ones always get caught. It might take 12 months, or less – all it tales is one of the many people involved to make a simple mistake and then the applications will be audited for everyone lodged by that agent or approved by that officer. You will get caught. Your visa will be cancelled, and you can’t win. Your visa will be cancelled under a power that does not require any evidence that you were involved.
- Some will just take your money and disappear.
- Some make wild promises, and when you get here ready to work or study after paying thousands of dollars, you find out that you are on 1month visitor visa with no work or course enrollment.
- You are offered a fantastic opportunity to come to Australia for a conference where you may get a job that leads you to PR. You pay up front for your flights, ‘agent fees’, Visa fees, legal fees etc and are soon granted a Tourist Visa in the Business Stream. A month later you have left your job, you have no money left, and you are standing at an airport in Australia and nobody is answering your calls or emails. You have been scammed. You can’t work, you can’t afford accommodation or a real Migration Agent…. later you find that the return flight ticket has been cancelled and refunded to the scammer. You can’t even get home.
Avoiding the pirates
- www.mara.gov.au is your friend. Use it to check on your agent who is giving migration advice. Make sure the agent you are dealing with really is that person.
- Remember only Migration Agents and certain exempt persons can give Migration Advice. If you are dealing with someone who has crossed that line, and you continue to deal with them, then my muddy old gumboots are smarter than you. Please don’t breed.
- Migration Agents always lodge from their own immi account and communicate with the department from their email address. If someone is using an account or email in your name, it’s probably too late. You won’t find this person on the MARA site.
- Giving incorrect or misleading information or false documents is always the wrong idea. If this is suggested, run away.
- When someone says not to mention spouse/partner or children, run away. How do you intend to get around this when you apply later to bring them over. The Department does check details in any older applications. You gave incorrect answers, what do you think is about to happen now that you’ve just told them you lied to get your current visa.