When you’re emigrating, there are a lot of costs involved. Some of these are essential costs (visa fees, medicals, flights…) – 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 am asked a lot is: how important is it to use a migration agent? This post will explain more about the pros and cons of using a migration agent/immigration agent and, more importantly, how to choose the right agent if you decide to go down that route.
Do you need to use a migration agent?
No, you definitely don’t. I have lots of friends who have migrated to Australia without the help of an 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 application.
Why I think using a migration agent is a good idea
Here are some reasons why I believe it is a good idea to employ a MARA registered migration agent:
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 something totally new – like 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 navigate without help. If you don’t submit everything that is needed, you could delay things by being asked to provide more information. Or worse still, you may find your skills assessment is rejected because, perhaps, you chose the wrong occupation to apply for. 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.
This 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 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. 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 want to immigrate to Australia, it’s a good idea to get your Australian visa application sorted as quickly as you can.
If you have a slightly complicated visa situation, an 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.
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 cost. However, agents cost a lot less than you might think and they do 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.
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 MARA registered 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 messed up. There are others in the group whose migration agents took their money and then vanished. 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. The results I got were pretty terrible.
Now just to explain, 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 SOL 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 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 finally, I found one that felt they could help us go forward with the electrical occupation but on top of their regular agent fee they wanted to charge us an extra £600 to 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 looking to emigrate and she told me the agent she had spoken to was going to cost £10k excluding visa costs (a fee which I now realise included all kinds of extras above and beyond the visa application). That figure terrified the living daylights out of me, and it had scared her enough to put her off her dream while she saved up (NB: this conversation was 4 – 5 years ago and she still hasn’t moved. I do wonder whether being told that fee put her off so much that she just crossed the dream off her list altogether as it was so out of reach).
Choosing the RIGHT agent
I was starting to lose all hope when I found Sort Out My Visa advertised in the Australia and New Zealand magazine. After a lengthy chat on the phone to Veronika Hurbis and her colleague at the time, I got more answers than I had in weeks of calls and emails with the other agents. We emailed, then called some more. I think we probably spoke to them about three times and sent multiple emails and we never once felt like we were under any pressure to sign any papers or commit to using them. They felt confident that we had the right skills to apply under one particular electrical occupation but promised to review all of the paperwork before we decided whether to submit to the TRA (at no charge above their usual fees). They felt confident we could put together a strong application that suited the occupation on the Skilled Occupation List that would allow us to apply for a 189 visa. This was huge as it meant we could move anywhere we liked in Australia (as we’d resigned ourselves to the fact we may have needed to move to the NT or ACT where we had no friends, family or work contacts).
To cut a long story short, we signed up with them. Our skills assessment was accepted quickly and they went on to successfully secure our 189 visa. It took about six months from sending off the skills assessment paperwork to being granted our visa.
This post isn’t about how amazing I think Veronika from Sort Out My Visa is (although she totally is!), it’s to make you aware that not all agents are the same. The difference between the agents I spoke to was astounding. Some didn’t seem to know what they were talking about. Others tried to tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about. And some just wanted us to sign on the dotted line to get our cash.
There are lots of good agents out there and you need to make sure you find one of them as choosing the wrong one could be an expensive mistake.
Shop around for migration agents
I think before you buy any services, you should always shop around. What might work for one person, might not be the right fit for you. Someone who sounds good online, might not be so helpful in reality. It always pays to explore a few different opinions.
Tips for finding the best MARA registered migration agent for YOU
I partner with Veronika Hurbis of Sort Out My Visa on my site, but I would still suggest you speak with a number of agents before you decide who to use. You need to find the right agent for your needs, and the only way you will know that is by speaking to a few.
Here are a few tips to you get started when looking for an agent
You should do some basic research online before you start making calls. (If I hadn’t done my own research before I started making my calls, 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 (because we had been seriously considering Perth anyway). Or I could have believed that all agents cost £10k (they really don’t cost anyway 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.)
Ask for a breakdown of their fee structure so you can see where the different stage payments need to be made (alarm bells should ring if they expect too much money up front – it should be broken down into stage payments). This will also show you which are their core services. Some 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.
Check if they are MARA registered. This takes you a few seconds to do – just input their name into this website as I did for Veronika or Sort Out My Visa. If they don’t come up, move on. Even more important is to check if the agent is the person who will actually be doing the work! There are offices where there may only be one agent and a number of sales/admin staff. While they may be persuasive to get your custom, you don’t want somebody completing your forms who is not qualified to do so. Also, 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 are some rogue companies offering migration services who may sound good and charge less, but again they are no more qualified than you to complete your application! If you choose a MARA registered agent and have a bad experience, you can report them to MARA. If they aren’t registered then you have less options for logging a formal complaint.
Speak to them on the phone. Call for a chat and get a feel for them. If you’re going to be dealing with them for the next six – 12 months you want to get on with them and feel comfortable chatting with them. I spoke to some people who were really abrupt and rude when I was searching for an agent – not 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 five-minute chat. You’re handing them a chunk of money and control over your dream – you need to feel you can trust them!
Ask them if they charge extra to answer questions. Some agents are happy to answer things that come up through the process, others like to charge extra. Understand what you’re getting into so you don’t face extra unexpected charges.
Google the company name. See if you can find any good or bad reviews. Search for their name in forums to see if others recommend them or complain about them. But don’t let this replace your own research. (The agents who offered to charge us an extra £600 to review our CV came very highly recommended in forums but I’m very pleased that money was able to stay in our pockets in the end!) Also, good agents will turn down clients if they don’t think have a chance of a successful application. It isn’t in a good agent’s interests to take someone’s money if they are going to be rejected. 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 with any reviews.
Don’t just choose any 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! (Here are some endorsements from my readers about Veronika Hurbis from Sort Out My Visa that you might like to check out.)
If you’d like to speak to Veronika Hurbis of Sort Out My Visa, you can send her an initial inquiry email her through this page.
Click the button below to download my list of questions to ask potential migration agents