Australian authorities have issued a new booklet in English and 17 other languages giving advice to people using migration agents to obtain visas.

It points out that it is illegal for anyone to give immigration assistance without being registered as a migration agent and it part of a clampdown on unscrupulous operators.

The booklet, Your Rights - tips on using a registered migration agent, is available from the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (Office of the MARA) and can also be downloaded from its website.

'For your protection, make sure your agent is registered with the Office of the MARA. This authority ensures only fit and proper people are registered migration agents,' a departmental spokesman said.

'They must keep up to date with migration law, abide by a code of conduct, maintain proper communication records and pass police checks,' he added.

There are more than 4,400 registered migration agents in Australia and overseas who can provide immigration assistance.

'If you are unhappy with the services of your registered migration agent, you can complain to the Office of the MARA. Making a complaint will not affect any visa application you have with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship,' the spokesman added.

Registered Migration Agents are bound by a Code of Conduct and are required to have an in depth knowledge of Australian migration law and procedure and meet high professional and ethical standards.

The Office of the MARA regulates Australia's registered migration agents to ensure that clients receive high quality immigration assistance, and protects the interests of people receiving immigration assistance. It pointed out that all registered agents have a Migration Agents Registration Number (MARN) and are listed on the MARA website.

The booklet points out that no one can guarantee that anyone can obtain a visa and it urges applicants to keep original documents such as passports and birth certificates as these can be provided as certified copies.

It also suggests that applicants make sure they understand what they are getting for the fee they are paying to a migration agent and a list of average fees can be found on the MARA website. Agents should give applicants a statement of services listing what they will charge upfront, that is before you agree to pay anything.

And it advises keeping a record of all communication about your application and to confirm discussions and instructions in writing.

More information and the booklet can be found at: