Have you been agonising over whether you really need to use a migration agent? Or are you wondering what a migration agent actually does all day? If so, read my interview with Veronika Hurbis, a MARA registered agent from Sort Out My Visa, who is one of the experts I handpicked to include on my Trusted Experts page.
Karen Bleakley speaks to Veronika Hurbis…
What made you become a migration agent?
My family migrated to Australia when I was nine years old, so I had a personal understanding of what it means and what it takes to move to a new country. I actually began my career as a solicitor, but my personal experience as a migrant led me to work in the migration and refugee area of law, and then, once I moved to the UK, my work just focused on migration.
Why should people consider using a migration agent?
When I first began working in migration law in Sydney, I remember my boss at the time saying that migration law was the most complicated area of law. And I think that he was right; over the years I have learned that, possibly with the exception of maybe tax law, migration law really can be complicated. And it changes endlessly, sometimes quite quickly, and sometimes without any notice. This means that a person who is not familiar with the law may get caught out by a change and may, at best, lose a lot of money making the wrong visa application.This means that a person who is not familiar with the law may get caught out by a change and may, at best, lose a lot of money by applying for the wrong visa. But at worst that person may have wasted the only chance he or she had to apply for a particular visa. This can happen when, for example, a person has an important birthday deadline.
Sometimes I will get calls from people who have decided to apply for a visa without the help of an agent. Instead, they have turned to the internet to find the right answer. What they don’t realise is that the internet is full of old information and that, very often, the law has changed since a piece of advice on a forum website, or an article, was written. Don’t forget that the internet is not fact checked! In fact sometimes even the Department’s own website is wrong.
Migration Agents are professionals. We know where to find the actual law that underlies every single visa criterion. We also know where to find the decisions that deal with how every criterion has been dealt with and interpreted by the Courts. So bearing in mind that nobody can guarantee a 100% successful outcome, because we are all human and we are all capable of making mistakes, with a Migration Agent handling your application you should be able to relax and hand over the whole process to someone who knows what they are doing.
It’s a bit like going to a doctor if you have, say, a broken arm; you won’t want to go to the local butcher to sort this out. Hopefully you will also not decide to turn to the internet to find instructions about how to set your own arm in plaster and hope for the best. Ideally you will want to go to the best available professional who deals with broken arms on a daily basis, who knows all about the most up to date materials and medicine to use to ensure that your broken arm mends well.
In other words, a person who does not know how to look up the law, and does not deal with visa applications on a daily basis may get things wrong. And that’s OK if that person has lots of money and time to spare; you can get it wrong and maybe you will have a chance to try it all again once you have learned your lesson. But if you don’t want to waste your money and your time, then you are best off leaving the work up to a professional like a Migration Agent.
Tell us a bit about what you do. What does an average day look like for you?
I spend most of my day answering emails from clients, or from people who are considering migrating to Australia or New Zealand, or from the different authorities involved in the visa application process. I also spend quite a bit of time on the phone, chatting to clients or people who are looking for a bit of visa advice. And then the rest of the day is dedicated to making sure that all of the paperwork is completed properly and on time.
But if that sounds quite boring, don’t worry! I actually begin my day with a great one-hour walk first thing in the morning and then I head out again in the afternoon. Fortunately we have a dog friendly office policy. (It’s one of the perks of the job, actually.) So I head out with Miss Mia and Merlin, in all weathers, just to give the eyes and the brain a bit of a break.
Do you think being a migrant yourself helps you deliver a better service to your customers?
Absolutely. First of all, I lived in Australia as a migrant child, a teenager, a student, and a working adult. I also travelled around quite a bit (I lived in Canada for 6 months, and I have lived in London, Oxfordshire and now Wales. So I have a level of personal experience that you just don’t get from someone who has never lived in another country.
Having lived in the UK for over ten years now, I also have that level of understanding of why a person from the UK (our clients are primarily from the UK) may want to move to Australia. But my family is still in Sydney, and my husband is English, so I know what is going on in Australia and I know what Australia is like from the perspective of a British person. I have had the great pleasure of introducing my husband to Australia. So I get that perspective too; seeing the country from my husband’s perspective reminds me just how special Australia is.
How often do people start the visa application process on their own and then call you when they realise it’s more complicated than they thought?
I get at least a couple of phone calls a week from people who have started going through the process and then they have hit a bit of a hurdle and have decided to speak to a professional just to make sure that they are on the right track. Today, for example, I spoke to a lady who had submitted an Expression of Interest (a step in the process before the actual visa application can be submitted) but she had done that without knowing that she cannot count unpaid maternity leave in her period of skilled work experience. Had she gone ahead with her application, her application would have failed.
Of course I never hear from people who find the process straight forward, so I can’t say that absolutely everyone has to use a Migration Agent. But if you are at all worried about any aspect of the process, or if you have a deadline, or if your circumstances are in any way complicated, or if you simply hate paperwork, I’d say do speak to a professional. Visa applications are very expensive these days and you really don’t want to get things wrong.
What is the best thing about your job?
The highlight of my job is calling clients to tell them that their visa has been granted! I love hearing the squeal of delight, or the complete disbelief, or shock! I also love when I tell one partner the good news so that he or she can surprise the rest of the family with a bottle of champagne that evening.
But what I love even more is hearing from clients who get in touch years later. Most have gone on to have children in Australia – “real” Australians – and have made a success of their lives. When they say that the decision to move was the best decision that they ever made in their lives, that’s definitely a job satisfaction moment.
If someone is interested in moving to Australia, what advice can you give them? Where should they start?
Speak to a Migration Agent. We are friendly, and most of us don’t charge for advice. We will tell you if you are on the right track, and if you are not, we will be able to point you in the right direction. So have a quick chat, it will save you from hours of internet research and confusion and stress. I promise.
Thanks for taking the time to chat to me, Veronika!
I wish I’d had the willpower to wait and surprise Matt with champagne after Veronika told me we’d been granted our visa – instead I was so excited I rang him straight up and burst into tears on the phone as I just couldn’t believe it was really going to happen! Breaking news like that must be such a lovely perk of the job.
If you’re in the early stages of thinking about emigrating to Australia, then it’s definitely worth chatting to an agent. If you’d like to speak to Veronika, you can visit my Trusted Experts page to send her an email.
If you would like more information about how to find a migration agent and what questions to ask, you can read this article which I recently had published in Australia and New Zealand magazine called Finding a migration agent.