Do Registered Migration Agents really add value to the process of preparing a visa application?

Are they really worth the extra cost?

Since most visa applications are now made over the Internet, do you really need a migration professional to complete the application for you?

For the RMAs who are reading this post, the answers to these questions are of course obvious.

You all understand and appreciate the important value that you add, by evaluating your clients’ personal backgrounds and immigration history, making sure that they choose the best visa pathway for their situation, confirming that they are able to satisfy the relevant visa criteria and meet health and character requirements, making sure that they obtain all the necessary supporting documentation that will be required by the Department, and supporting the application with strong submissions to assist the Department’s officers to understand why the visa should be granted.

But for potential visa applicants who are considering whether to use an RMA and who are not involved in the migration process day-in and day-out, it is important to appreciate just how useful an RMA can be.

If you just take the Department’s word for it, you may get the impression that the Department considers that it is perfectly ok not to engage an RMA, and that you’re perfectly safe just using a “Do It Yourself” approach.

That certainly seems to be what the Department was suggesting in the recent post that it put up on the Migration Blog on the Department’s Website about student visa applications:

http://migrationblog.border.gov.au/

If you take a careful look at that post, it doesn’t make any mention of using an RMA, or say anything about how an RMA can meaningfully help an applicant.

Based on that post, applicants may get the impression that applying for a student visa is as easy as 1-2-3.

Just copy your passport, your Confirmation of Enrolment and your overseas student health cover, and off you go!

Well, if you check the case reports from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Federal courts, you will realize that it isn’t as simple and uncontroversial as this post from the Department may lead you to believe.

The fact of the matter is that the Department refuses many, many visa applications of all kinds, including many applications for student visas.

Unlike RMAs, the Department is not concerned with protecting the best interests of visa applicants, or doing its utmost to make sure that a visa application is successful. The Department does not have a professional duty of loyalty and care to visa applicants and at the most, it is “neutral” towards applications. It certainly is not mindful of each applicant’s personal circumstances, or why it is important to an applicant’s future to secure or retain the legal right through a visa to remain in Australia.

And there are so many possible traps and pitfalls for the unwary that there is great risk in just “doing it yourself”!

Let’s just take the example of “seemingly simple” visas, applications for student visas.

A very large number of these applications get refused every year.

And that happens even when an applicant is already onshore in Australia, and has already obtained a first student visa!

Among other reasons, the Department might refuse a student visa application because it is not satisfied that the applicant is a genuine student who intends to stay in Australia only temporarily for the purposes of study, or that the applicant has not provided sufficient or proper evidence of their capacity to pay tuition and living costs.

And applicants for student visas who have for whatever reason not applied for a new student visa within 28 days of the explanation of their original visa may find themselves having to figure out how to satisfy the confusing requirements of the dreaded “Schedule 3”.

And even worse is that if you apply for a visa while onshore and are refused, you may very well be barred from applying onshore for another visa (under section 48 of the Migration Act).

Contrary to “popular myth”, if your original student visa has expired and a further visa application has been refused, you simply can’t just submit another student visa application from onshore!!!

So really, despite what the Department might suggest, there really are genuine risks to a DIY visa application.

After all, your future in Australia is at stake.

Not to mention the cost of the visa application, which will be lost if the Department refuses the visa.

And there is also the peace of mind that comes with using an RMA who knows the migration laws back to front: You can have confidence that your application will be prepared and supported in the best way possible, that it is “decision-ready” and put together in a way that will make it easy for Departmental officers to conduct their reviews and to see that the criteria for granting the visa have been satisfied.

So there’s no doubt about it: an RMA can add tremendous value to the process of advising and assisting anyone who wants to get an Australian visa.

And if the Department suggests otherwise, they’re simply wrong!!

Courtesy of Migration Alliance