Latest advice on using migration agents in Australia focuses on costs

by Ray Clancy on October 14, 2014

in Australia Immigration

People using migration agents in Australia for their visa applications and or advice need to be aware of what the costs might be.

They should take into account that some agents may ask for payment in advance of services being provided, while others will charge when their services are complete.

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The Australian government is reminding people to look into the costs of a certified migration agent

Advice from the Department of Immigration and Border Control (DIBP) includes checking the arrangements in advance and being conscious of using agents who are registered.

For example, if an agent asks for payment in advance or takes money before completing all their services to, clients should make sure the payment goes into the agent’s ‘clients’ account.’

‘This must be separate from their business operating accounts or personal bank accounts. The only time an agent can use money from this account is when they need to pay disbursements on your behalf such as your visa application charge or they need to be reimbursed for disbursements they have paid on your behalf with their own money,’ said a DIBP spokesman.

‘If a visa application has several parts, for example, under the Employer Nominated Scheme or a visa with a skills assessment component, your agent may expect payment on completion of each component rather than at the end when all work for the entire visa application is complete,’ the spokesman explained.

He also pointed out that before an agent can take money out of the clients’ account to pay their professional fees, they should give the applicant a written ‘Statement of Services.’  This must show the work the agent has done so far and how much the agent has charged for that completed work and whether it is charged by service or by the hour.

‘The Statement of Services should only list work already performed rather than to be performed. It should not include any services that are not listed in your Agreement for Services and Fees,’ the spokesman said.

He added that if an agent requires payment upon completion of work, you will pay for their professional fees in one payment when all services have been delivered.

Whether an agent decides to charge you up-front or after completing services, they must issue an invoice for their professional fees and for each disbursement. After you pay each invoice, they must provide you with a receipt for each amount paid.

Also, the migration agent must inform a client as soon as they become aware of any change to the fees they will charge, for example, extra work the agent did not know about when they agreed to work.

‘They must inform you in writing about the extra cost and the total likely cost as a result of the change in fees. Your agent cannot do work for you in a way that increases the cost of the work, for example, by seeking advice from specialists when it’s not needed,’ said the spokesman.

All agents are registered and monitored by the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) and it has a list of fees on its website. ‘Consider talking to a few agents about their service and fees, before you choose one and sign a written contract with them,’ said a MARA spokesman.

There is also a list of agents who have been sanctioned on MARA’s website along with a list of lapsed agents and disciplinary actions.

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