Joint Standing Committee: Education Agents

The Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Migration is inquiring into the efficacy of current regulation of Australian migration agents. That inquiry was requested on 14 March 2018 by the Hon Alex Hawke MP, then Assistant Minister for Home Affairs. Its terms of reference are as follows:

Examining the registration and regulation of migration agents in Australia including: education, English proficiency, payment, fee-scheduling as well as the suitability and stringency of the accreditation process and evidence of deficiencies.

The nature and prevalence of fraud, professional misconduct and other breaches by registered migration agents, the current review mechanisms for migration agents and the adequacy of penalties.

Deficiencies and barriers to relevant authorities’ investigation of fraudulent behaviour by registered migration agents in visa applications, including the adequacy of information and evidence sharing between such authorities.

Evidence of the volumes and patterns of unregistered migration agents and education agents providing unlawful immigration services in Australia.

Reviewing the appropriateness of migration agents providing other services to clients.

A total of 38 submissions were made to the committee, some of which are noteworthy. The Law Council of Australia’s (LCA) original submission included the following recommendations:

To protect the interests of visa applicants and review applicants, only Australian legal practitioners should be authorised to represent applicants before a court or review authority.

That migration agents be prohibited from providing advice to clients on citizenship law.

The LCA subsequently sent a supplementary submission including the following passage (emphasis added):

7. It is the Law Council’s view that the AAT (Migration and Refugee Division) may be an appropriate source to seek advice on appropriate training requirements needed for migration agents, or whether or not the jurisdiction requires a legal qualification.

8. Accordingly, the Law Council seeks to rephrase its earlier recommendation to the effect of:

To protect the interests of visa applicants and review applicants, only Australian legal practitioners should be authorised to represent applicants before a court or the General Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

The LCA did not withdraw its recommendation in relation to citizenship law. Its rephrasing above does not withdraw its recommendation that ‘only Australian legal practitioners should be authorised to represent applicants before a court or [the General Division of the AAT]’.

The Migration Alliance’s submission included the following passage:

… Migration Alliance is specifically concerned about the current level of exemptions which permit, amongst others, HR managers to provide immigration assistance to employees which can give rise to a conflict of interest as well as concerns about the quality of that advice. Similarly, Members of Parliament and their staff should not provide immigration assistance to constituents. That advice should be provided by RMAs who, through Migration Alliance, are happy to provide pro bono advice to Members of Parliament and their staff to constituents. RMAs are insured and are qualified to provide independent and expert advice…

The Department of Home Affairs submission is another example of some of the noteworthy submissions made to the inquiry.

Four public hearings have taken place so far and the next one will be held in Canberra at 10.10am on Wednesday, 19 September 2018. This hearing will be attended by the International Student Education Agents Association through the following persons: Ms Ana DaSilva (Chairperson), Mr Robert Parsonson and Mr Michal Sestak (Members).

 


Disclaimer: the above is a mere report of an inquiry. The writer of this article does not attest to the accuracy of the information contained in the materials referred to in it. Nor has the writer attempted to convey his views on any of the statements there included. The law or policies might have changed between the writing and reading of this article. The author of this article and Migration Law Updates disclaim any liability for any action (or omission) on their part based on any information provided (or not provided) in this article and are under no obligation to keep the general public nor practitioners informed about the matters discussed in this article or any other matters, or any future changes to any of those matters. It is the responsibility of each practitioner to obtain access to primary sources of law and policy by themselves and to carry out their own research and come to their own conclusions on legislation, case law, policies and more. This article is not intended for the general public.


Sergio Zanotti Stagliorio is a Registered Migration Agent (MARN 1461003). He is the owner of Target Migration in Sydney. He can be reached at sergio@targetmigration.com.au