18th November 2017
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Why use an Immigration Lawyer?

What's the Benefit of Having an Australian Immigration Lawyer Prepare my Visa Application?

Many prospective visa applicants have asked why they need an Australian immigration lawyer to prepare their visa application. Understandably, applicants often want to know what additional benefits they stand to gain if they engage the services of an Australian immigration lawyer in preference to a migration agent - or if they prepare their own Australian visa application.


Self - Prepared Australian Visa Applications

It is not a legal requirement that you retain the services of an Australian immigration lawyer or migration agent to prepare your visa application. You are entitled to prepare and submit an Australian visa application yourself without any professional assistance.

Preparing a high quality visa application, however, requires a lot more than just answering a few questions and filling in some forms. It is a potentially life - changing undertaking that can be greatly assisted by someone with the advantage of legal training and experience, as well as an in-depth understanding of Australian immigration law and the relevant policies and procedures of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

We do not recommend undertaking this task independently of professional legal advice.


Key Differences between Australian Immigration Lawyers and Australian Migration Agents

In Australia, any individual or firm providing immigration advice or assistance must be registered with the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA).

Australian migration practitioners are regulated by the guidelines and policies of this authority. This is the case for both Australian migration agents and Australian lawyers who practise immigration law.

It is important to note that while all MARA - registered Australian immigration lawyers are also Australian migration agents, not all Australian migration agents can claim to be Australian immigration lawyers.

According to the 2007 - 08 Government Review of Statutory Self-Regulation of the Migration Advice Profession, of the 3,755 migration agents registered on 31 March 2008, only 1073 (or 28.5%) held legal practising certificates. So it can be considered that approximately one - third of all registered migration agents are also Australian immigration lawyers.

Perhaps the most obvious difference between Australian migration lawyers and Australian migration agents is the level of training and regulation that applies to each.

Regulation of Australian Immigration Lawyers & Migration Agents

Both Australian immigration lawyers and Australian migration agents must be registered with MARA and are subject to MARA’S guidelines and regulations. However, Australian immigration lawyers are also required to be registered with a government - approved body that regulates the legal profession.

This means that Australian immigration lawyers are subject to a higher degree of regulation and supervision than Australian migration agents.

Haag Walker Lawyers are both registered migration agents AND registered Australian lawyers. So, in addition to the stipulations outlined in MARA’s code of conduct, Haag Walker Lawyers also adheres to the ethical and professional standards prescribed by the Government of Victoria in the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014, the Legal Profession Uniform Law General Rules 2015 and the Legal Profession Uniform Law Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules 2015.

Because Australian immigration lawyers are both registered migration agents and qualified lawyers, their clients enjoy the benefit that comes with knowing that their representation is subject to the requirements outlined in MARA’s Code of Conduct for registered migration agents, and the ethical and professional standards of service defined by the Law Institute of Victoria and the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014.

The dual regulation of Australian immigration lawyers works to the advantage of their clients.

Training and Experience

Many prospective visa applicants are unaware of the significant difference in legal training undertaken by Australian immigration lawyers as compared to non-lawyer migration agents.

In order to practise law independently in Australia, at least three years of  university education is required, including prescribed courses in Australian administration law (involving legal challenges to Government decisions such as the grant or refusal of Australian visa applications), professional conduct and ethical conduct.

This is followed by a period of supervised, practical legal work under the direction of an experienced mentor. As a result of this extensive period of study and practical experience, Australian lawyers already possess significant skills and experience in Australian law before they are permitted to practise independently.

Migration agents on the other hand are not required to complete anywhere near this level of training or undertake any practical legal work, beyond the scope of their migration studies, before they are permitted to offer their services to the public.

Migration agents are only required to complete one semester of full - time study (six months) in order to qualify as a registered migration agent. And once they are registered, there is no requirement to work under supervision for any amount of time before commencing independent business in immigration advice and service.

Australian Visas - a Matter of Law

Obtaining your visa is a matter of law, so a full understanding of the law and how it applies to your circumstances is of vital importance in preparing and submitting a quality immigration visa application.

Australian immigration law is extremely complex, and it is continually evolving. Lawyers are often required to analyse, interpret and apply Australian legislation, case law and government policy on a daily basis. Australian immigration lawyers are skilled in working through this kind of complexity as a result of their legal training and experience.

In completing a visa application, particular questions and the answers provided to them can be of critical importance to the success of your application. So too is the type and quality of the documentation submitted in support of your visa application. Underpinning the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's questions and documentary requirements is a set of laws that includes the Migration Act 1958 and Migration Regulations.

This legislative framework means that the type and quality of documentation provided to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship can sometimes make the difference between the grant or refusal of your visa application.

In many cases, it is not enough to simply rely on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's ‘checklist’ of the supporting evidence it expects to be submitted along with your application. In some cases, professional advice not to include unnecessary documentation or ill - prepared documentation, in your application can have important relevance to the success or failure of your plan to locate to Australia.

Experienced Australian migration lawyers are able to provide you with clear advice as to what type of documentation should be submitted and aid you in the effective preparation and presentation of your documentation.

Legal Submissions

A further important distinction between Australian immigration lawyers and Migration Agents relates to the preparation of legal submissions.

Given that Australian Lawyers are required to undertake at least three years of university legal training, it stands to reason that they are well qualified to understand the legislation, policy and procedure applied by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship case officers.

So when it comes to preparing high quality legal submissions to accompany your visa application, this training and experience is an invaluable asset towards the potential success of your application.

A well prepared legal submission will ensure that each of the visa criteria required for your visa grant is properly addressed and supported by appropriate documentation.

Getting Your Australian Visa Application Right the First Time

You want to make sure your visa application is right the first time. There are many instances where Applicants have wasted time, effort and money pursuing avoidable legal proceedings in Australian courts. Had these applicants received appropriate legal advice and the benefit of a well - considered migration strategy at the outset, their pathway would have been less difficult and costly.

Haag Walker Lawyers are experienced Australian immigration legal practitioners who are familiar with current law, procedures and foreshadowed changes to immigration practice. We have the qualifications and expertise to properly advise you about your best options for migration to Australia.

Additional Legal Advice and Options:

Australian immigration lawyers are confined in the advice they can give by the boundaries of immigration law. They are legal professionals trained in the Laws of Australia. They are able to advise you in relation to the full range of laws that may be relevant to your circumstances.

Immigration matters often carry implications concerning a client's rights and responsibilities in other areas of law, such as family law, employment law, business law, criminal law, and tax law. Non-lawyer migration agents cannot be expected to understand the general operation of the law. Furthermore they are prohibited from provided you with legal advice outside their narrow field of training.

Lawyers, on the other hand, are required to be aware of Australian laws in general. Their training and experience means they will be able to identify any potential implications these other areas of law may have on your visa application.

Additionally, should your visa application be refused and if  you choose to bring an appeal before the Australian courts, an immigration lawyer will be able to represent you in that review, while a non-lawyer migration agent cannot. Appeals are often an important part of the application process, so it is sensible to make sure this option is available to you from the beginning.

Confidentiality - Legal Professional Privilege

Clients of Australian Lawyers can claim the right to legal professional privilege. This means that their lawful communications with their lawyer are confidential and protected from exposure in most situations (a few limited exceptions exist).

Clients of migration agents are not entitled to claim that their communications with their migration agent are protected from disclosure by legal professional privilege.

By retaining the services of an Australian immigration lawyer, you are entitled to privacy protection through legal professional privilege for your lawful communications with your Australian immigration lawyer.

Insurance

In Australia, a person who charges a fee for legal services must hold a current practicing certificate. These must be renewed each year. In order for a renewal of their practicing certificate to be renewed, Australian lawyers must be able to demonstrate that they;

  • hold current compulsory professional indemnity insurance,
  • have completed the required amount of Continued Professional Development (CPD) training, and
  • have accurate audit records of any trust accounts held.

It’s important that you feel secure about the manner in which you visa application is handled. In the event that a migration service provider mishandles your case, or makes a mistake in preparing your visa application, you no doubt want the reassurance that comes from knowing you will be able to register a complaint and recoup any financial loss resulting from that mistake.

Given the high level of regulation that applies to Australian lawyers, there are numerous avenues available for you to lodge a complaint that would be thoroughly investigated by the regulating agency.

All Australian lawyers must abide by the directions of the Legal Profession Act 2004. Strict rules apply to the way in which an Australian lawyer is permitted to deal with any money you pay to them. Consequently any misuse of money you have paid to an Australian lawyer would be thoroughly investigated.

If your money was found to have been misappropriated you could expect to be reimbursed by the Legal Practitioners Fidelity Fund for your financial loss. Furthermore, the way in which an Australian lawyer deals with your money is automatically subject to independent audit by an approved auditor. The rules serve to protect your funds from misappropriation.

Australian migration agents are not governed in the same way. The regulations concerning trust accounts and monies held by non-lawyer migration agents are different.


Why Choose Haag Walker Lawyers to Handle my Australian Immigration Matter?

It can be difficult to negotiate Australia’s complex and evolving immigration laws and policy. There are more than 100 Australian visa subclasses for temporary visitors to Australia, plus various pathways to permanent residence. So it is important to get the right advice from the beginning of the migration process.

Australian lawyers offering Australian immigration services can better provide the type of expert advice, assistance and service that you need to submit a successful application for an Australian visa. Overall, a high level of service and protection is offered by Australian immigration lawyers.

Haag Walker Lawyers are registered migration agents and fully qualified Australian lawyers. We are subject to all the regulations that bind migration agents plus those that apply specifically to Australian Lawyers.

Importantly, Haag Walker Lawyers practice exclusively in Australian immigration. Consequently, Australian immigration is our sole focus. Our team is made up of Australian - trained immigration lawyers who have over 20 years combined experience in migration law and practice. Our clients receive the benefit of this collective knowledge and expertise.

When you have your immigration matter dealt with by us, your valuable time and money will not be expended on any unwarranted or unattainable applications. Under our direction, you can be confident that your Australian visa application will have the best possible chance of success.

 
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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How long will it take for my visa application to be processed and finalised?

A. The processing time for visa applications will vary according to the visa class being applied for, and the priority order in which applications are processed by the Department of Immigration.

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