The Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA) has sanctioned 12 migration agents in the last 6 months for violating their Code of Conduct. Of these, 4 registrations were cancelled, 5 were suspended and 3 were barred.
What is the role of OMARA?
OMARA registers and regulates migration agents, and provides practice guides to assist registered migration agents in meeting their obligations under the Code of Conduct.
What obligations must the migration agents follow?
In Australia, migration agents must be registered and they must obey a Code of Conduct in order to provide proper immigration assistance or professional services. Under the Code, migration agents have to cover several obligations, in the following (but not limited to):
- Interactions with the clients;
- Fees and charges, record keeping and financial management;
- Responsibilities towards other agents;
- Must respond if a complaint is made against them;
- Prominently display the Code in their office and client waiting area.
What if migration agent(s) are found in breach of their code of conduct?
OMARA will conduct investigations, and if found in breach of the conduct, the migration agents will be subject to a disciplinary decision which will also be made public.
Recent disciplinary decisions
A recent prominent decision held on 14 February 2019 involves a cancellation of a migration agent’s registration for a period of 5 years for the following grounds:
- The agent submitted no less than 5 fraudulent documents to the Department and had encouraged his client to be complicit in this;
- The agent repeatedly and knowingly provided statements to the Authority that were false and/or misleading when responding to the complaints;
- The agent failed to issue Service Agreements and Statement of Services to clients, despite withdrawing client monies from his business accounts;
- The agent failed to maintain proper and accurate client records.
Another sanction decision held on 28 February 2019 involves a less harsh penalties which involves a suspension of the registration of a migration agent for a period of 3 months, on the following grounds:
- The agent accessed the personal and immigration information of a person who was not her client, without their knowledge or permission, using the Department of Home Affair’s Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) system;
- The agent withheld documents from the Authority during investigation, in order to conceal her unauthorised access of information using VEVO.
For both above decisions, the Authority held that the migration agents demonstrated a blatant disregard for the law, and was not held a person of integrity, or otherwise not a fit and proper person to give immigration advice.
It is paramount that all migration agents familiarise themselves with the Code of Conduct on a regular basis.
If you need immigration advice and/or assistance, please ensure you speak to OMARA, or you can contact us with your query. At McKkrs, we provide CPD classes for RMAs and lawyers practicing migration law and would be happy to assist you where possible. Please contact us on (02) 4626 1002 or simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.