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Efficacy of current regulation of Australian migration agents

The submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration regarding the efficacy of current regulation of Australian migration agents was prepared by the Law Council. 

The Law Council is grateful for the assistance of the Law Institute of Victoria, the Law Society of South Australia, the Law Council’s Migration Law Committee and legal practitioners practising in migration law in the preparation of this submission. 

Australia is an economically and culturally diverse nation which has, since the end of World War II, encouraged and supported a large migration program. This is reflected in the range of permanent migration opportunities presently available within the broad migration policy categories of skilled, family, special eligibility migration and humanitarian migration.

In addition to permanent migration, Australia also provides significant opportunities for temporary entry to Australia under many specific visa categories, in broad areas such as: studying and training; family and spousal; and working and skilled visa programs.

The size, diversity, and economic and social objectives of Australia’s migration program are underpinned by a necessarily detailed legal and administrative framework. By its very nature, immigration predominantly involves people with a limited knowledge of Australian law, and of administrative and legal procedure, (often) limited financial resources and (often) limited proficiency in the English language. There is a very high degree of information asymmetry in migration matters. Because of this, users of immigration assistance services have high vulnerability to the adverse consequences of unscrupulous, incompetent and unprofessional migration services providers.

The Law Council therefore supports strong and effective regulation of the migration advice sector to maintain the integrity of the migration system and to protect the interests of users of migration agent services.

Regulatory reforms since at least 1989 have been progressively moving migration agents toward a regulatory framework broadly equivalent to regulation of professions — in particular a framework approaching that which comprehensively regulates the legal profession.

The elements of the current regulatory framework for migration agents are: mandatory academic qualifications in migration law and practice; fit and proper person and person of integrity requirements; a registration regime to confer legal authority to act as a migration agent; a dedicated regulatory authority; services and charges disclosure, professional indemnity insurance; control of client monies held in trust, a mandatory code of conduct, and a discipline regime.

The Law Council supports the continuing development of a strong, professionallyfocused and effective regulatory framework governing migration agents, the provision of immigration assistance, and the protection of consumers of immigration assistance services. 

You can read the full submission below.

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