When you’re emigrating, there are a lot of costs involved. Some of these are essential costs (visa fees, medicals, flights, English language tests…) – these are things you HAVE to pay to make the move. There are also lots of ‘optional’ costs. By optional, I mean you don’t HAVE to take a shipping container of your belongings to Australia, you don’t HAVE to use a migration agent and you don’t HAVE to take your pet. Emigrating is a very expensive process, so it is understandable that people try to keep the costs down as much as possible and cut back on fees where they can.
A question that I’m asked a lot is: do I need to use a migration agent for my migration to Australia? This post will explain more about the pros and cons of using a migration agent/immigration agent, whether you need to search for a migration agent near me (or whether the location of your immigration agent matters), what to consider with the migration agent fees and, most important, how to choose the right migration agent if you decide to go down that route.
This article contains affiliate links
Introducing Home of Visas
I want to begin the post about whether you need a migration agent by introducing you to my new Perth migration agent partners for Smart Steps to Australia. This is Fizah Ismail (MARN 1684420) who together with her sister, Zahirah, runs Home of Visas in Perth, Australia. This boutique migration agency really stands out as being unique – I personally reached out to connect and partner with them because I love their brand and the story behind their business.
Fizah and Zahirah have personal experience of migration as their family moved to Australia when they were young. They clearly remember the uncertainty around their family waiting years for their permanent residency visas and this inspired them to go into the immigration sector so they could make the process easier and less stressful for other families in this situation.
I LOVE supporting female-led businesses (especially in this male-dominated industry) but for me, it’s their story and their values that shine through in what they offer. They carefully review each case through an initial questionnaire followed by a FREE discovery call worth $195 (which you can book here) and they only take on clients they feel they can help.
Before they set up their own agency, Fizah and Zahirah worked for large-scale migration agencies dealing with large volumes of applications. They decided to set up their own business together so they could provide more personalised support and build stronger connections with the people they’re helping. It’s not about volume and numbers for them – their business is about helping families create a better life for themselves and they see the visa as the first step towards this.
Home of Visas is based in Perth and can help clients worldwide relocate to Australia.
Now let’s get started with the article about why you might want to consider using a migration agent for your move to Australia…
Do you need to use a migration agent?
No, you definitely don’t need to search for an Australia migration agent. I have lots of friends who have migrated to Australia without the help of an immigration agent. The visa is just paperwork, after all, and, if you’re confident at filling out forms and Googling for answers every step of the way, there is every chance you could do your own skills assessment and visa application. However, I believe everyone should consider the benefits of using a migration agent. Read on to learn more…
Why I think using a migration agent is a good idea
There are lots of pros to using a migration agent. And while you CAN do your own visa paperwork, here are some reasons why I believe it’s a good idea to employ a reliable migration agent:
- When you appoint a migration agent in Australia (or elsewhere in the world), you will have someone who knows what they are talking about at the end of the phone/email throughout your move (and beyond, if you choose a good agent). When you’re going through a new life experience like this – like navigating the Australian visa paperwork and moving to a whole new country – having someone who can give you accurate and detailed Australian visa advice makes everything much easier and less stressful.
- The paperwork involved in emigrating is massive and it can be difficult to figure out without help. If you don’t submit everything that is needed, you could delay things as you may be asked to provide more information. Or worse still, you may find your skills assessment is rejected because you chose the wrong occupation to apply for (it’s not always easy to work out the best fit) or you didn’t include enough information or the right types of evidence. The Australian immigration process can be a long-winded one, and you really don’t want to cause delays to your Australian visa by not getting the right information together at the right time.
- Moving to Australia is your dream. Personally, I feel like it is too important to skimp on the most important aspect of your move. If you don’t get your visa, your dream is over. Delays caused by incomplete or incorrect paperwork could cause all kinds of issues depending on your circumstances – it could mean you lose a job offer, or it could set back your house sale, or a medical issue could arise out of the blue that means you are no longer eligible to move or delays could stop your move altogether if your occupation gets taken off the list or they change the points needed to apply. And delays can also be disheartening – when you’ve decided you want a new life in Australia, you want to get started as quickly as you can, not spend months or years applying for it.
- If you have a slightly complicated visa situation, a migration agent can take a lot of the worry and guesswork out of the process. It really lightens the load to know that a migration expert is leading on the application for you and all you need to do is provide the information they need when they request it.
- The migration agent fee is often lower than you might think. While being budget conscious is important, there are times that I feel it is wise to invest in your future.
What are the cons of using a migration agent to apply for your Australian visa?
There is only one downside to using a professional immigration agent, and that is the migration agent’s fee. However, immigration agents tend to cost less than you expect and they take a lot of work out of your hands, ensure the visa process runs smoothly and they get your visa through as quickly as possible. (Providing you have carefully chosen a professional migration agent, that is.) I personally feel the value we received from our agent went way beyond the money it cost us and it was one of the best investments we made in our move to Australia as it meant the visa side of things was smooth and easy. That was a major aspect of the move that we didn’t have to worry about.
Why using an immigration agent isn’t enough
It may sound like I’m contradicting myself here, but JUST using a migration agent isn’t enough. You need to carefully choose the right migration agent.
There are lots of people who’ve messaged me privately in the Move to Australia Facebook group who have paid and lost money to immigration agents. Some of them have had their skills assessments rejected because their agent made mistakes. There are others in the group whose migration agents took their money and then vanished (there are way too many of these, unfortunately). And then there are people who have agents that keep charging more and more to answer every little question.
I had my own issues when I was searching for a visa agent. I didn’t know anybody who had used a migration agent before so I literally just hit Google and looked at adverts in Australia and New Zealand magazine.
We had a complicated situation. My hubby’s skills crossed a few occupation boundaries so it wasn’t clear which route we could take. The most obvious occupation for him (avionics) had just been removed from the Skilled Occupation List but he had skills, qualifications, and experience that matched some of the other electrical occupations. I wanted to find an agent with an open mind who was willing to discuss the electrical options with us.
I had one agent tell me we weren’t eligible full stop and there was nothing we could do. Another told me with 100% certainty that we were eligible under the avionics skill but only if we moved to Western Australia (which I knew was wrong as avionics was only an option in Northern Territory and ACT at the time!) I had others who told me I needed to go back to their website and check their little online migration quiz to see what that said (even though I was calling to explain that we didn’t have a clear pathway and needed help working it out.) And then I found one that felt they could probably help us go forward with the electrical occupation but on top of their regular migration agent fee they wanted to charge us an extra £600 to have a quick look over my husband’s CV to decide if we were likely to pass the skills assessment.
I also spoke to a friend of a friend who was seriously looking to move to Australia and she told me migration agents cost £10k excluding visa costs. That figure scared her enough to put her off her dream completely as she felt the costs were out of her reach. I’m so glad I didn’t accept that number and instead continued to do my own research. (The reality is she had a quote from one migration agent and that fee must have included a lot of optional extras that were way beyond the scope of the visa so it really wasn’t an accurate fee at all).
It’s so easy to get knocked off course when somebody you trust tells you something as if it’s a fact (similar to when a relation told me she’d watched a recent episode of Wanted Down Under and that it proved we weren’t going to be able to afford to live in Brisbane!), but I’m here to tell you to just do your own due diligence and your own research before forming any conclusions.
Choosing the RIGHT migration agent for Australia
I think before you buy any services, whether that is banking, finance or visa services, you should always shop around. What might work for one person, might not be the right fit for you. There are lots of good migration agents out there and you need to make sure you find one of them as choosing the wrong one could be an expensive (and time-consuming) mistake.
Tips for finding the best Australian immigration consultants
Here are a few tips to get started when looking for a migration agent for Australia
Research your visa options online first
Do some basic research online into your potential visa options before you start making calls or emailing migration agents.
If I hadn’t done my own research before I started making my calls to immigration agents, I could have believed the agent who told me we weren’t eligible and given up on our dream altogether. Or I could have signed up with the agent who was convinced we could move to Western Australia even though that wasn’t even an option on that occupation. Or I could have believed that all agents cost £10k (they really don’t cost any way near that much!) and not bothered going any further. It scares me how much power agents have to put an end to your dream by giving you misleading or incorrect information.
When you take the time to understand the basics of your migration options, it puts you in control over your dream and it means you’re in a stronger position to find a fair and honest migration agent that can help you because you’ll quickly recognise incorrect information or dodgy sales techniques.
If you’re just starting your migration journey, this is a good post to start with as it outlines what is involved in the migration process.
Review and understand the migration agent’s fees: How much does a migration agent cost?
There are fees involved in appointing an Australian migration lawyer or a local migration agent near you, so it’s important that you understand them.
Ask for a breakdown of the migration agent fee structure so you can see where the different stage payments need to be made. Ask questions about what happens if you pull out at any stage so you understand your liabilities.
An agent wouldn’t usually offer you a money-back guarantee for getting you a visa – how could they know what mysteries are hiding in your past that you haven’t disclosed or how do they know you’ll be able to provide all of the proof required about your occupation? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Getting a migration agent fee list will also clearly show you which are their core services. Some immigration agents add in extra services that they are recommending for you and this can increase the bill by thousands (hence that £10k quote I mentioned before). Be clear about what you will be getting for your money and what you want from them. You don’t need to take on all of the add-on services they may be offering – if it’s just the skills assessment/expression of interest/visa applications you want help with then make sure that’s all the quote is for.
It’s also a good time to ask them what is and isn’t included. Understand what you’re getting into so you don’t face extra unexpected charges.
Understand what being a MARA registered migration agent means
It’s important to understand the relevance of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) when choosing your migration agent. The Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (also known as OMARA) is a section within the Department of Home Affairs. Their role is to protect consumers of migration advice services by only registering those people who meet the strict qualification and character standards. They investigate complaints about registered migration agents, this also helps to protect consumers.
It’s worth being aware that migration agents operating outside of Australia don’t legally need to be a registered migration agent. And just because an agent is or isn’t on the list of the migration agents registration authority it doesn’t make them automatically good or bad – it comes down to the individual agent. However, MARA registered agents are governed by a strict migration agent code of conduct which can give you some peace of mind.
Many people automatically assume they’ve done the right thing by choosing somebody from the MARA agent list because their agent mentions on their website that they’re MARA registered agents, but please be aware that you can sometimes search the MARA registered agents list and find out that their membership doesn’t actually exist. This could be because their membership status has lapsed (it costs money to remain registered and agents outside of Australia might choose to stop their registration but often websites and social media profiles aren’t updated to reflect this). If using a current registered agent is important to you, make sure you double-check the migration agent register to see if they are listed as a current member.
How important is it to choose someone from the list of registered migration agents in Australia? Personally, I think it’s more important to check Australian migration agent reviews and to get personal recommendations as I know a number of very reliable migration agents in the UK who aren’t currently registered immigration agents (due to letting their membership lapse due to the ongoing fees involved). Not being registered doesn’t make them any less knowledgeable as they’re still trained legal professionals with decades of experience working in this industry. However, I’m in a position where I know these agents personally. If I didn’t know any agents (or have any personal recommendations to go by) then I think at least doing a MARA agent search is one way of ensuring you’re doing what you can to choose your agent wisely.
Something else to be aware of is that often MARA registered agents will pass their workload on to assistants that aren’t MARA agents. This isn’t a problem if the person who will be assisting is experienced and knows what they are doing (and if they’re getting competent supervision from the MARA agent), but it is something to be aware of as the person you speak to might not be the person actually working on your application.
There are offices where there may only be one registered migration agent and a number of sales and admin staff. While they may be persuasive to get your custom, you want to make sure somebody who is qualified and experienced will be leading on your application. Also, please be aware, the law is that outside Australia there is no legal requirement for only migration agents or solicitors to do visa work – essentially this means there are some rogue companies offering migration services who may sound good and charge less, but again they may not be suitably qualified for completing your visa application so do your research!
Speak to your potential immigration agent
Speak to the agent on the phone if you can. You might need to book an appointment for this, but I think it’s worth it. If you’re going to be dealing with them for the next year or so, you want to get on with them and feel comfortable chatting with them.
I spoke to some migration agents who were really abrupt and rude – they weren’t people I felt like I wanted to deal with over a long period of time. You don’t need to be best friends with them, but you can get a good feel for them from a quick five-minute chat. You’re handing them a chunk of money and control over your dream – you need to feel you can trust them!
Some agents offer a free discovery call to see if you’re a right fit. Others charge a fee for this.
The migration agents I partner with, Home of Visas, offer a free discovery call to assess if you’re a good fit for one another. You can book a free discovery call here
Search for migration expert reviews
Google the company name and the migration agent’s name and see if you can find any good or bad migration agent reviews for them.
Search for their name in forums and Facebook groups to see if others recommend them or complain about them. But don’t let this replace your own research. Some groups are unfortunately filled with ‘fake’ endorsements from staff members pretending to be happy customers – I can’t tell you how often I have to remove fake reviews of shipping agents, money transfers etc. from my Facebook group but it happens too often. It’s easy to spot – if you see a positive migration agent review in a group, search for the member’s name who made the comment to see what other helpful advice they’ve shared in the group. If they comment often about all kinds of things, they’re likely to be trustworthy but if they only repeat the same one-line endorsement over and over again in threads, there is a good chance they’re connected with the company somehow.
Understand too that good agents will turn down clients if they don’t think have a chance of a successful application. It isn’t in an agent’s interests to take someone’s money if they are likely to be rejected for a visa. Some clients find this difficult to understand and may make complaints against agents because they refused to help them. It’s better to choose an agent that turns people down for the right reasons than an agent that accepts everybody regardless! So try to read between the lines when looking at migration agent reviews.
Does it matter where my migration agent is based?
I often get asked if I can recommend a local migration agent, but the truth is that it doesn’t matter where in the world your migration agent is based. You will complete the paperwork online and even if you live in the same country as your agent, it’s unlikely you will actually need to see them in person. A bit like how 15 years ago, people chose a local solicitor to buy and sell their homes, now it’s common to choose the best service regardless of where they’re located (when we sold our house before moving to Australia, our solicitor was based a five-hour drive away so we never met them in person but they were fantastic and delivered a more efficient service than our buyer’s solicitor who was in our hometown!)
What matters most is that the service is reliable rather than the location of your migration agent.
Don’t just choose any migration agent
Selecting your migration agent is something you should spend some time getting right. They are going to be in charge of your migration dream and this is a huge responsibility. Choose wisely!
Click the link below to download my list of questions to ask potential migration agents as part of my free resource library >>>