Last updated: January 2020
“We take care of the headaches” is a very popular line from migration agents but what do they really mean when they say that?
Because at the end of the day, they still give you a checklist for you to gather the documents, write your statements and then apply for the police checks, health checks etc. Migration agents don’t even help you translate your documents and if they do you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s not part of the $5,000 fee that they quote. They’ll know trusted translators that they’ve worked with before and they’ll recommend them to you because guess what? Migration agents get a commission for that and their trusted translators make money off you too. (Note: always use a NAATI certified translator if you can).
So let’s go through what these potential headaches could be and how migration agents take care of them for you.
Headache 1: Paperwork – documents, evidence, statements
The Australian partner visa process is a very long process that requires gathering a lot of documents and evidence. Most couples spend months in advance of their lodgement date just collecting everything they’ve ever sent to each other, wrote to each other, scouring emails for every itinerary and trip booked.
With a migration agent, you still have to do all of that because you’re the holder of that information. When you sign up with a migration agent, you don’t give them access to your email accounts or your social media accounts. Instead they ask you to send them everything you have.
So is that what taking care of the paperwork headache means?
And once you’ve done all the work of collecting your evidence, you have to sit down and write your personal statements on how your relationship developed and answer the 4 aspects of the relationship.
Will the migration agent write your statement for you? No, because they can’t.
A migration agent may review your statements and provide comments but from what I’ve seen (as I’ve reviewed a few statements that have apparently passed a migration agents’ review) is that they rarely make any suggestions.
After that, you will be told by the migration agent to find family and friends that are willing to write supporting witness statements for you and your partner.
Will the migration agent contact your family and friends and write their statements for them? Once again they won’t because they don’t know your family or your friends. The most they can do is narrow it down for you and tell you that you should choose 2 from your side and 2 from your partner’s side.
When the time comes to do police checks and health checks, will the migration agent apply for a police check for you? Will they complete your eHealth declaration? Will they organise your health examination at Bupa (if you’re onshore) or with a panel doctor (if you’re offshore)?
The reality is, your migration agent will make you do everything because you are the only person that can provide that information.
The migration agent is basically your bossy personal assistant who is supposed to do things for you but instead ends up telling you to do it, send it back to him/her so that they can package it up. Worse still, you are paying your bossy personal assistant $5,000 to instruct you to do the work that they should be doing!
Headache 2: Communication with the Department
There have been cases of inaction on the migration agent’s part that has led to major delays in responding to the Department. See, when the Department needs more information from the applicant, they give you 28 days to respond. After that they make a decision on your visa application. In some of these cases that I’ve read, the Department received no response, after 28 days decided on the visa application and the partner visa was denied. All because the migration agent didn’t pass on the Request for Further Information soon enough to the applicant to respond. That’s right, the visa applicant was still the holder of the information and needed to send it to the migration agent who would then pass it on to the Department.
That is the inherent risk of using a go between when communicating with the Department.
But that being said, using a migration agent to handle all communication with the Department can be advantageous for those that do not speak English fluently. On this point alone, a migration agent can solve this communication headache. On the other hand, a translator or an interpreter can do the same thing and the Department provides one for you if you need it.
Headache 3: “Handles the entire process”
Do migration agents really handle the ENTIRE process for you?
Every few weeks I get an email from a reader who wants to know how they can get their applications back from a migration agent. They used one to help them and they had the temporary partner visa granted but then the migration agent either disappears or stops answering their calls or emails. Migration agents seem to think that just because the processing time on partner visas are 19-24 months, that it’s OK to take people’s money and disappear once they get them the temporary partner visa.
These readers for various reasons stopped trusting their migration agent and wanted to know how they can do the permanent processing stage themselves. Thankfully there’s a guide for that too.
Look very carefully at your cost agreement with the migration agent and know exactly where their obligations end. Is it the entire process up to and including the permanent processing stage or does it end when they submit the application (which is the more common agreement with migration agents).
What I’m seeing more and more are agents who will submit the 2 applications for you but only stay on the case for as long as they’ve submitted.
They won’t take up your case when the permanent processing stage comes around.
I have seen cost agreements that sneakily limit this and if you’re not aware of what it really means, you wouldn’t pick up on it.
My question is: are these ‘headaches’ worth $5,000 when they’re not really headaches at all?
The point is, you are paying a migration agent $5,000 for the ‘headache’ of doing online application forms and dealing with the ImmiAccount system.
Ask yourself, is that headache worth paying $5,000 to get rid of? Why not pull up your sleeves, apply a little elbow grease and handle your own application process?
What I do recommend paying a migration agent for is strategy and advice.
If you have a difficult situation or a complicating factor such as health issues, criminal records or an unusual relationship that would require further explanation then a migration agent is worth consulting to see what your options are. For example, if you’re outside of Australia and you want to apply for a partner visa in Australia, you have a lot more options to get to Australia. I go through a few here and here but if you’re not sure of the best way for you, consult someone who can give you good advice. They can even recommend you a strategy depending on which visas you are eligible for.
For partner visa application appeals I would seriously recommend an immigration lawyer instead as they are more knowledgeable in the legal process, legal administrative matters and generally how to conduct themselves in court.
If you do have a complex case, migration agent consultations are far cheaper than $5,000 so why don’t you call around, pay the consultation fee, and if the migration agent has laid out exactly what they’ll do for you for that $5,000 then by all means, go with them to solve your ‘headaches’.
But don’t just buy into the marketing spiel of ‘$5,000 and we’ll solve all your headaches!’ or ‘Save yourself all the headaches’ because you might have a better chance of success lodging it yourself than with some migration agents. See the Department’s statistics on migration agent success rates.
Part of the reason why I wrote the guide is to make sure that readers will be well informed of the process so that if they choose to use a migration agent to do their partner visa application then at least readers will know which migration agents are worth their time and money.
I continue to update the blog with more information because I want to educate the customers and keep the migration agents on their toes, to not rest on their laurels, to not see partner visa applicants as easy targets and cash cows.
The Australian Partner Visa Guide is an alternative
The Australian Partner Visa Guide is an alternative for those who can’t afford to pay $5,000 to get rid of headaches. It’s a guide that has taken so many readers through the application process with great success. Every week I get thank you emails from readers who did it by themselves telling me that they got their visas granted. For every thank you email that I get, I get a few more from readers who tell me that both partners are working 2-3 jobs just to save money for the application fees. I write for these people who need the help but can’t afford additional migration agent fees.
It’s also these people who are working 2-3 jobs that aren’t afraid of the ‘headaches’ that migration agents want you to be scared of. These people working 2-3 jobs are hard workers and when it comes to securing the right for their partners to live and work permanently in Australia, they will never stop working hard.
Don’t let migration agents convince you that paying $5,000 is a short cut that you need.