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The Difference Between an Immigration Lawyer and a Migration Agent

Updated: Oct 19, 2019



There are many pathways to immigration in Australia. This includes both the different visas open to prospective migrants, as well as means of applying for them. While it is certainly possible to lodge an application oneself without any external help, it is rarely advised. There are many thousands of pages of legislation relating to immigration and migration, and many pitfalls one can fall into.


When seeking help, people often find themselves faced with two options: an Immigration Lawyer, or a Registered Migration Agent (RMA). Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of confusion as to what — if anything — the difference is between these two roles. This isn’t helped by the fact that there’s a significant amount of overlap between the two.


View Immigration Lawyer vs Migration Agent Comparison Table

So, as you can see, there is overlap. But an Immigration Lawyer who is also a Registered Migration Agent is able to provide additional services, with higher levels of qualification than a straight RMA.


Reasons to Consider an Immigration Lawyer and Registered Migration Agent (RMA) Over an RMA

  1. There are 3,000 pages of relevant legislation regarding immigration law in Australia. In addition, another 16,000 pages of policy guidelines and parliamentary directives provide information for some 150 visa categories. These complex legislative and regulatory requirements are also constantly evolving. In light of this, a legal qualification can be critical in achieving the desired result for a client.

  2. Lawyers are held to more rigorous professional standards than registered migration agents. They must annually re-register with two distinct regulatory bodies; OMARA, and their legal Practising Certificate. Having to annually re-register with dual bodies, each requiring their own levels of CPD points for qualification, ensures a higher level of education and regulation regarding the service expected of Immigration Lawyers.

  3. While OMARA does set out its own ethical code of conduct, Immigration Lawyers are also held to the code of ethical and professional standards set out in Legal Profession Act 2004 (NSW). This again ensures a high level of conduct in Immigration Lawyers.

  4. Legal professional privilege extends to communication between lawyers and clients, but not registered migration agents and clients. This means that these communications cannot be revealed except under limited, extenuating circumstances. Migration agents do not enjoy this legal privilege.

  5. Immigration lawyers who have a high level of experience practicing immigration law are able to be listed as accredited specialists. This accreditation is designed to help clients distinguish practitioners who have achieved specialist skill, proficiency and experience in their field over the course of at least three years. This accreditation is peer removed and must be renewed annually.



The Need For Higher Standards


Australian migration law is an important part of the country’s laws, and is strictly regulated. There are many profound implications for all individuals involved in the process. From applicants to sponsors, a great deal can ride on the success of an application.

For this reason, it’s important to have the best possible legal advice and representation when applying for a visa or sponsorship. This will help to greatly enhance migration opportunities and outcomes.

Unfortunately, the lower regulatory requirements necessary to become a registered migration agent means many RMAs are not providing the best possible service. In fact, OMARA reported that in the 2011-2012 financial year, 70% of RMAs do not re-register after the first year. After 5 years, 60% of RMAs had not re-registered.


With low retention, high turnover, and lack of RMAs with significant long-term experience, it can be difficult to find an RMA who can provide best possible outcomes.


That’s why Immigration Lawyers registered as migration agents are ideal for handling migration concerns. Continued re-registration across multiple governing bodies ensures higher standards of continuing education.

Accredited specialist immigration lawyers especially have proven their experience, skill, and expertise in their field. To hold their accreditation, they have passed rigorous examination in communication, problem-solving, client relations, and the law.


Additionally, dealing with the Department of Immigration is only achievable through experience — there is no training. Complex matters requiring extensive communication with the Department, or the relevant review bodies, must be carried out by someone with experience for any chance of success. This experience simply can’t be obtained by a registered migration agent with little experience or continuing education under their belt.


Codex Lawyers Migration Services

At Codex Lawyers we have both experienced Migration Agents and Immigration Lawyers who can help you with all your migration requirements whether it be a simple Visa application to more complex issues.


We have an excellent track record in successful cases and many happy clients because who appreciate the personalised care and relevant advice to help them navigate Australian visa and immigration laws.


Simply contact us today on 0487 171 822 or info@codexlawyers.com.au for a no obligation initial meeting to help us understand your situation and how we can best help.

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