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Handing a client file from one agent to another

There may be certain situations where a client file may be handed from one agent to another.  For example, if a matter becomes too complex and current agent is no longer in the position to assist their client, or a client may terminate their relationship with the agent (and vice versa).  It is therefore vital for registered migration agents to have systems and processes in place to ensure that a when client file is handed over to another agent, this is done in line with the Code of Conduct.

Unfortunately, recent sanctions published on OMARA website indicate that some agents do not appear to have such processes in place which results in consequences including but not limited to sanctions, bar or cancellation of the agent’s registration.  In the ever-evolving nature of immigration law, which is becoming more complex and unpredictable, it is understandable why clients may choose to "shop" and go through a number of different agents in order to achieve their desired outcome.

Part 4 of the Code states that before accepting immigration work, a registered migration agent must consider whether he or she is qualified to give the advice sought by the client.  A referral may be made, for example, if a registered migration agent is asked for advice on matters for which he or she does not regularly provide immigration assistance.  Further, a registered migration agent must not encourage another agent’s client to use the first agent’s services, for example by denigrating other agents or offering services that the first agent cannot, or does not intend to, provide.

Before taking file from another agent, a registered migration agent must not take over work from another registered migration agent unless he or she receives from the client a copy of written notice by the client to the other agent that the other agent’s services are no longer needed.

When it comes to giving the client file to another agent, it is important to ensure that clients are not unduly disadvantaged following receipt by an agent of a request from a client for the return of documents, agents have obligations as set out in the Code of Conduct for registered migration agents (the Code). Under the Code, a client is entitled to ask a registered migration agent (orally or in writing) to return any document that belongs to the client. The agent must return the document within 7 days of being asked.

Failure to action a request for documents within the specified timeframe may adversely affect a client, particularly in circumstances where the client is required to submit documents to the Department of Home Affairs (the Department) as part of their ongoing visa application and may be in breach of the Code.

The reference to documents includes all written communications, and including, but not limited to:

  • the contract for services (Agreement for Services and Fees)
  • all correspondence between the client and agent (emails, letters and file notes)
  • the visa application(s)
  • documents submitted in support of the visa application(s) (e.g. skills assessment, IELTS test results)
  • all correspondence between the agent and the Department or the OMARA
  • all financial records relevant to the services provided, and as specified in the contract for services.

Additionally, all agents must have an address and telephone number where the agent can be contacted during normal business hours. This includes making appropriate arrangements in periods of extended absence e.g. overseas travel.

Adopting a client onboarding/exit checklist prevents errors being made when it comes to giving or receiving the client file.

The checklist ideally should address the following:

  1. What is a client file

Agents need to understand what is a client file.  Whilst on the surface, the answer may be simple, agents however, need to know what documents should be kept on file, duration these documents should be kept on file and how to deal with requests for return of documents.

  1. What should the file contain

A file needs to contain all information pertaining to the matter.  There are no exceptions or shortcuts.

  1. Is your file ready for an audit

The best way to manage a client’s file is to ask yourself this question.  If the answer is uncertain, the file is not ready for an audit.

  1. Substantial communication

To avoid any misunderstanding in terms of what communication should be kept on file, it is best practice to keep all communication relating the matter on file.

  1. Documents to keep

Discharging yourself from a client, does not result in discharge from record keeping obligations.

  1. Record keeping obligations

Agents are required to keep records of files for a period of 7 years (this includes matters handed to another agent)

Having a checklist to address the above will streamline the process of managing a client file.  LTA is running a number of workshops in May, June and July addressing matters relating to the Code of Conduct as well as file management including:

Guidelines to handing over a file from one agent to another

What you owe and don't owe to your client 

Fee Agreements (scope of work, refunds, deposits etc)

What is a client

How to deal with disappointed clients

Client file management

To book secure your spot to our Category A Workshops, visit: https://legaltrainingaustralia.com/webinar-cpd/

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Comments

  • Owen Harris
    Owen Harris Monday, 20 May 2019

    "A file needs to contain all information pertaining to the matter. There are no exceptions or shortcuts."

    Beg to differ. Your file notes belong to you, not the client. Don't hand over your file notes.

  • Ruslan-Ahmadzai
    Ruslan-Ahmadzai Monday, 20 May 2019

    Part 10 of the Code lists exactly what documents need to be handed over on request

  • Guest
    Ganesh Monday, 20 May 2019

    Wow. Can we have a CPD or something about what we need to give to the client. Interestingly my file notes are not the clients. They are MINE!!!!!! Can the OMARA lawfully direct us to give them the file notes?

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