All files held by a migration lawyer are the subject of legal professional privilege, and they can oppose attempts to gain copies of client materials.
A Registered Migration Agent (RMA) however does not have the same ability to protect confidential information and file records, which means they have to hand over client files, even if they contain sensitive information, or material provided to the RMA in confidence.
A recent search of an RMA by the Australian Border Police demonstrates the importance of using a lawyer, rather than just an RMA.
On 12 November 2015, an RMA ‘s premises computers and phones were searched, and they seized material such as:
- Immigration-related client and customer lists
- Immigration-related client and customer records
- Contracts of Employment
- Contracts or agreements
- Correspondence relating to work experience and work references
- No less than 51 records for different Pty Ltd businesses represented by the RMA, in alphabetical order
- Files relating to DIBP / DIAC
Obviously this search raises a lot of questions about the loss of Australia’s civil rights, and the potential for authorities to abuse same.
It also highlights the need to use a lawyer over an RMA – other reasons include:
- Lawyers keep record systems to protect our client’s applications, which ensures we can prove what we have sent to the DIAC and what we have received. Copies of all documents are kept on file so if he DIAC lose documents, we can quickly resend. The DIAC (and the post) do lose documents so professional file management systems are critical to the success of your visa application.
- Lawyers have years of compulsory professional training in interpreting legislation (like the Migration Act) and the cases that are decided in the Courts and the Tribunals, which guards against the need to seek a review in the first place (as the applications are prepared to a legal standard), and helps ensure the success of any review that may be needed.
- Lawyers/Solicitors are officers of the Court, and can advocate Hearings before the Federal Courts. The Migration Place are experienced in representing clients in matters before the Migration Review Tribunal, the Refugee Review Tribunal, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Federal Magistrates Court and Appeals to the Federal Court.
- Many visa applications require knowledge of other areas of law – for example:
- You need someone with family law experience, if you want to bring a child where your ex is staying in the home country.
- You need a lawyer with criminal law experience if you have any criminal record
- You need a lawyer with experience in compiling health evidence if you have a health issue.
- once you get your visa, you’ll need help buying your first house or business in Australia, establishing tax and business structures (including companies and trusts) or other legal matters.