Immigration Law - Lawyers and Migration Agents

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The Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (the Act) distinguishes between the assistance lawyers and registered migration agents can provide to clients. Lawyers may only provide immigration legal assistance while registered migration agents may only provide immigration assistance.

What can lawyers do?

Lawyers can give immigration legal assistance in accordance with s 277 of the Act.
For example, lawyers can:

  • Act for a visa applicant, cancellation review applicant, or a person sponsoring or nominating a visa applicant in preparation for court proceedings in relation to that application;
  • Represent, or otherwise act for, a visa applicant, cancellation review applicant, or a person sponsoring or nominating a visa applicant, in court proceedings that relate to the visa application or cancellation review application;
  • Give advice to a visa applicant or cancellation review applicant in relation to an application so long as it is not advice for the purpose of:
    • preparing or lodging a visa application or cancellation review application;
    • proceedings before a review authority in relation to the visa application or cancellation review application; or
    • review by a review authority of a decision relating to the visa application or cancellation review application.
  • Undertake clerical work to prepare (or help prepare) an application or other document;
  • Provide translation or interpretation services to help prepare an application or other document;
  • Advise a person that s/he must apply for a visa; or
  • Pass on information produced by a third person without giving substantial comment on, or explanation of, the information.

What are lawyers restricted from doing?

Lawyers can not give immigration assistance as defined in s 276 of the Act.
For example, lawyers can not:

  • Prepare, help to prepare, or lodge a visa application or cancellation review application;
  • Prepare or lodge an approved form that advances the name of a visa applicant or undertakes sponsorship;
  • Give advice for the purpose of preparing or making a request to the Minister to exercise a power under
    • section 351, 391, 417, 454 or 501J to substitute a decision of a tribunal with a decision more favourable to the applicant, or
    • section 195A, 197AB or 197AD to grant a visa, or make, revoke or vary a residence determination;

unless the advice is provided by a lawyer without fee or other reward s 280(5) of the Act.

What happens if a lawyer provides immigration assistance?

If a lawyer who is not a registered migration agent provides immigration assistance then that lawyer commits an offence under s 280 of the Act and is liable to a punishment of 60 penalty units. This is a strict liability offence as defined in s6.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

Relevant contacts

Refugee and Immigration Legal Service (RAILS)
Ph: (07) 3846 3189
W: http://www.rails.org.au

Department of Immigration and Citizenship
Ph: 131 881
W: http://www.immi.gov.au

Migration Agents Registration Authority
The Migration Agents Registration Authority is the peak professional association of migration agents in Australia.
Ph: 1300 226 272
W: https://www.mara.gov.au

Contact us

The information in this resource is for general information purposes only. If you would like help with a legal problem, you may be eligible for assistance from a LawRight service or clinic.


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Email: admin@lawright.org.au
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