Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) act No. 71 of 2020, commencing 22 March 2021
As you are aware, the Australian immigration advice industry is highly regulated. An individual is only allowed to commercially give advice and provide immigration assistance either as an Australian legal practitioner (lawyer) or as a registered migration agent (RMA).
As a practising lawyer, one is licensed and regulated by your state Law Society, the Legal Services Commissioner under the Australian solicitors conduct rules. As a profession, lawyers have over many centuries developed well-established rules of professional conduct, as enforced by the courts. To provide legal services, a law practice must comply with a number of legislative requirements, including maintaining compulsory professional indemnity insurance (in NSW, via Lawcover).
Migration agents are regulated by the Migration Act, through a registration process/ overseen by the OMARA (Office of the migration agents registration authority). The Code of conduct for registered migration agents embodies the rules of professional conduct that apply to agents. To provide protection to clients, migration agents are also required to maintain professional indemnity insurance (many commercial insurance companies offer such cover).
Double regulation for lawyers
Until now, if an Australian lawyer chose to provide immigration assistance, it was required under the Migration Act that such a person had to also hold registration as a migration agent – we effectively had a very unusual system of ‘double regulation’, unique to this specific field. The recently introduced Deregulation Act will bring an end to the requirement for double registration.
What does the Deregulation Act say?
In essence, the Deregulation Act will prevent an Australian legal practitioner with an unrestricted practising certificate from continuing registration as a registered migration agent beyond 22 March. From this date, a legal practitioner will exclusively be regulated by his/ her Law Society and the rules that apply to all lawyers throughout Australia.
See Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) act No. 71 of 2020: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2020A00071
New clients who seek immigration assistance/ give instructions after 22 March 2021
All consultations with new clients meeting with one of our expert lawyers will be conducted in Teleo Immigration Lawyers. Once a suitable strategy has been agreed on, new clients will be given the opportunity to select if representation for the matter must be held with Teleo Immigration Lawyers or Teleo Immigration Specialists. At that stage, instructions will be sought in relation to a preference for file management/ information sharing within our office, and other matters.
Current clients for Teleo Immigration Specialists:
The Deregulation Act will prevent an Australian legal practitioner with an unrestricted practising certificate from continuing registration as a registered migration agent beyond 22 March. If your matter is not a court case or a judicial review file, your retainer agreement is likely with Teleo Immigration Specialists as an Australian immigration consultancy company. Dr Etienne Hugo remains the director for the company, to ensure the ongoing effective supervision and management of your file. Please note that on account of the Deregulation Act, from 22 March 2021 all Teleo lawyers can only provide immigration assistance within the capacity of a legal practitioner in the law practice of Teleo Immigration Lawyers.
If a Teleo lawyer is currently on record with DHA as representative on your file, a Teleo registered migration agent will be appointed in his/ her place. For this purpose, a new Form 956 will need to be provided for DHA records. You can rest assured that your matter will continue to be dealt with by a Teleo team registered migration agent, as regulated by OMARA, beyond 22 March. If you do not consent for your matter to be dealt with on this basis, and if you specifically wanted a legal practitioner in Teleo Immigration Lawyers to provide immigration assistance and engage with DHA on your behalf in this capacity, we will require a new instruction, for which we will issue a retainer agreement with the following steps, as provided by the Law Society of New South Wales:
- Contact our office, so that we may seek instructions from you as a ‘migration agent business’ client, to act for you as a principal of a law practice. We will then draft a retainer agreement for your engagement with Teleo Immigration Lawyers and answer any questions that you may have. Please send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- We will provide a cost disclosure for you as a new client of the law practice/ Teleo Immigration Lawyers.
- We will take action to terminate your instruction for the ‘migration agent business’ in accordance with part 10 of the Code of conduct for migration agents. We will provide an up-to-date invoice for work completed by Teleo Immigration Specialists, account for any monies held on your behalf in your separate client account and seek your directions to pay money held in your client account to the Teleo Immigration Lawyers practice trust account.
In order to comply with the Code of conduct for migration agents rules, also in reference to the management of confidential client information, you must advise how you wish for us to deal with your file beyond 22 March 2021. Part 3 – Obligations to clients. If you agree for your information to be managed as before by our office and administrative team (which includes the sharing of ongoing access to your file documents and information by all Teleo staff members), no action is needed. You have already given authority for us to securely manage your information as per your current retainer agreement, as we have until now. If you do not consent for your information to be accessible by all Teleo staff members, please contact us, so that we may put in place specific measures to prevent Teleo staff members who are not employees of Teleo Immigration Specialists from having access to your data through our shared client management system (including the separation for email correspondence). In this instance, please use the following email: email@example.com
All migration assistance services provided by Teleo Immigration Specialists will be carried out by a registered migration agent, in accordance with the Code of conduct for migration agents.
The Department of Home Affairs / Australian government authorities (Immigration Department) records will be updated with the new Form 956 (authority to act), available from 22 March 2021, as applicable. If required, we will send you a copy of this form to sign and return to our office.
- Sign Form 956, to provide authority for your Teleo team registered migration agent representative to act and engage with DHA in relation to your matter.