Changes made to Australian migration agent regulations - make sure your agent is up to date

The MARA Code of Conduct has
been updated for 1 January, 2012.

The Australian Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) is the body that all onshore Australian migration agents are required to belong to, in order to provide Australia visa advice to potential applicants.

MARA is responsible for regulating migration agents and making sure that migration agents provide clients with the best possible service. Part of this is providing a Code of Conduct that agents must follow, which is updated on a semi-regular basis.

The latest updates to the Code of Conduct are scheduled to take effect on 1 January, 2012. You can download a copy of the new Code of Conduct here, but see below for a list of these changes, as well as a brief explanation for each of them:

Changes to the MARA Code of Conduct set to be made on 1 January, 2012

  • A requirement that notices and information to clients be in writing;

Note: A fairly simple one - this just means that in addition to information being conveyed by phone to clients, it will also need to be sent via email / post.

  • Removal of the statement in Clause 2.9 that “a Registered Migration Agent cannot be responsible for misinformation provided by a client”;

Note: Previously, if a client provided incorrect information as part of their visa application, it was possible for the blame to be placed solely on the client. However, this has now been removed, so an agent will now take responsibility for ensuring that all info provided by the client is accurate.

  • Removal of the words “seek to” from the statement in Clause 2.9A that “a Registered Migration Agent must not seek to mislead or deceive the Authority [MARA] whether directly or by withholding relevant information”;

Note: This is just a change to the semantics, really - the message remains the same, but with the removal of 'seek to', the clause that says an agent must be completely honest with a client is just made firmer.

  • Addition of “a review authority” to the Clause 2.19 requirement that “a Registered Migration Agent has a duty to provide sufficient relevant information to the Department to allow a full assessment of all the facts against the relevant criteria.” NB: This may be because of the number of review applications that are made without full submissions being provided;

Note: This addition has been made to accommodate for an independent review authority to be involved in the resolution of any disputed.

  • A requirement that Registered Migration Agents notify the Office of the MARA of changes to their registration details in advance, or within 14 days of the changes if advance notice would be unreasonable in the circumstances;

Note: This change has been made to ensure that MARA is aware of any changes to an agent's registration in advance, or as soon as possible.

  • A requirement that registered migration agents notify DIAC, Office of the MARA, any review authority and all current clients of any changes to the agent’s contact details in advance, or within 14 days of the changes if advance notice would be unreasonable in the circumstances;

Note: Again, this is a change that has been added to ensure that MARA is kept aware and up-to-date of an agent's details at all time and will be able to contact the agent when necessary.

  • Contracts with clients, now referred to as an "Agreement for Services and Fees", to include the services to be performed, the fees for the services, and the disbursements the agent is likely to incur as part of the services;

Note: This is a change designed to make the process of a client securing an agent's services as transparent as possible, so there is no confusion as to what services the fees will be for. 

  • Agents are not entitled to payment for immigration assistance unless the client has been given a statement that is consistent with the services, fees and disbursements in the Agreement for Services and Fees. The statement has to be an invoice or account which itemises each service performed and the fee for each service.

Note: This change is also designed to increase transparency and ensure that clients will only pay for work that has been performed by the agent.

What do these MARA changes mean? 

It's clear from these changes that MARA is doing its upmost to ensure that registered migration agents act in a responsible, transparent manner. It's also a reminder to any potential applicants for an Australia visa that the first thing they should do when choosing a migration agent is check whether they are registered with MARA.

At the Australian Visa Bureau, we currently have four registered migration agents on staff. You can find their details on our MARA page

Additionally, you can verify their registration status by going to the 'Find an Agent' section of MARA's website and search for them using their name, registration number or their place of work (i.e. Visa Bureau Ltd).

- Leonie Cotton is Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau.