When choosing a migration consultant, you may frequently come across two different names used for what would seem like the same position. These are a migration agent and a migration lawyer. While often used interchangeably, there are several key distinctions between a migration agent and a migration lawyer, many of which may directly affect you and the way your application is handled. Choosing the right representative is therefore crucial in securing yourself a positive outcome and is especially important considering the costly and life-changing nature of the decision.
We explain below the key differences between a migration agent and a migration lawyer to help you make the right choice for your move to Australia.
Qualifications and Training
The most significant difference between a migration agent and a migration lawyer is the level of training and education required for registration. A migration agent must only complete a 12-month certificate or diploma to obtain full registration, typically a Graduate Certificate in Australian Migration Law and Practice.
A migration lawyer, however, is qualified and registered as an Australian legal practitioner which is a far more rigorous and comprehensive process. To become an Australian legal practitioner, your migration lawyer would have completed the following:
- a 4-year bachelor’s degree in law
- practical legal training, essentially a graduate diploma in legal practice, including the required work experience component
- admission to the legal profession before the Supreme Court
- obtain a legal practising certificate from the relevant law society
A legal practitioner must also renew their practising certificate each year and complete a minimum of 10 continuing professional development (CPD) points each year in order to maintain their practising certificate.
The level of training and education is clearly more rigorous than that required for agents, not to mention that migration lawyers are held to a higher and more professional standard of conduct through the legal profession.
During their study, migration lawyers are trained in subjects such as statutory interpretation, legal research and communication, administrative law and civil procedure. The depth of this legal training equips migration lawyers with a far more advanced and comprehensive skill set which will be used in handling your migration matter.
Due to the evolving legislation, the influence of procedural guidelines and departmental policy as well as the introduction of new parliamentary directives, your first choice of consultant should be a migration lawyer. Lawyers are well-versed in these areas and are better trained in identifying how the law applies to you.
For example, administrative law governs the activities of government agencies, such as the Department of Home Affairs. Considering that your application is lodged with and assessed by this Department, it would be in your best interests to hire a representative who is trained in this particular field of law.
A migration lawyer is therefore in a better position to liaise on your behalf with the Department as they understand the governing framework with which the Department must comply to ensure the proper and lawful handling of your case.
A broader legal scope
As shown in the name, a migration lawyer is just that, a lawyer. A migration agent may only assist and advise you in matters that relate strictly to migration, whereas a migration lawyer can identify how other areas of law may interact and influence your case.
For example, if you are intending on lodging an employer sponsored visa but have other questions or concerns as to your rights as an employee, particularly as a visa holder, a migration lawyer may also provide you with legal advice in the area of employment law.
This allows a migration lawyer to advise not only in the field of immigration but other areas that may relate to your case, such as employment, taxation and family law. By choosing a migration lawyer over a migration agent, you will benefit from a broader scope of legal knowledge as well as access to a consultant with practice and experience in the legal profession.
Legal professional privilege
The concept of legal professional privilege is another added benefit of using a migration lawyer over a migration agent. While a migration agent must ensure that your communication is confidential, only a migration lawyer may claim legal professional privilege.
Legal professional privilege protects certain communications from a lawyer and their client from subsequent disclosure. This is your right and acts to your benefit as it prevents the disclosure of communications between you and your migration lawyer to any entity, organisation or even the court.
Essentially, it allows your migration lawyer to withhold any evidence or communications from a third party if requested and is designed to encourage full and frank disclosure of information between a lawyer and their client.
Here at No Borders Law Group, our migration consultants are all lawyers and registered as Australian legal practitioners. If you need a migration lawyer or would like to discuss your options, please contact No Borders Law Group to speak with one our lawyers today.
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