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Registered Migration Agents and Lawyers working hand-in-hand

Migration Agents have been contacting Migration Alliance over the past few weeks about the "state of the profession". 
 
Probably the best email I received was from Registered Migration Agent, Rajwant Singh who managed to sum up my thoughts on the "state of the profession" almost entirely.  I wanted to share some of these thoughts regarding this new-look profession we are heading into over the next few months. 
 
1. False information being propagated regarding the future of registered migration agents
 
Agents are reporting in that they are seeing a lot of posts from "outraged agitators" in various online forums, namely Facebook groups, proffering the notion that somehow Registered Migration Agents (RMAs) will have no place in a new system and new style of profession.   These "outraged agitators" views promote a view that there will suddenly be thousands of of lawyers out there who will try to take over the profession.  The incorrectly promoted view is that lawyers will flood in and take the work that RMAs are currently doing, and create more competition in an already overcrowded market.
 
I, along with many other RMAs believe this notion is totally unfounded.  As professionals we already have enough competition.  All seven-thousand plus RMAs already compete against each other.  On top of this we also compete against "unregistered" agents.  I call these people "unregistered persons", "criminal entrepreneurs", or "unlawful operators".   RMAs also compete against family, friends and fools who help unwitting visa applicants.   Finally, we compete against the DIY visa applicants who also help other DIY visa applicants.
 
As qualified professionals we should be more worried about the unqualified people providing migration help instead of a few thousand lawyers who will (probably not) decide to work in the migration profession.   The current government, namely the Hon Minister Jason Wood and Hon Minister Peter Dutton have worked hard to pass legislation helping to stamp out unregistered practice, as we have seen over past year.  That's some of the competition already gone.   
 
Lawyers will have have the same challenges RMAs have, which is to attract, then convert, then retain clients.  
 
If we look at the system we had previously, a lawyer simply had to apply to the Office of the MARA for  registration and they got registered.  No special special qualifications were required.   If thousands of lawyers were genuinely interested in the field of migration law, there was nothing stopping them from joining the profession previously.   
 
I run Legal Training Australia, and I haven't seen a sudden spike in interest from lawyers in joining our CPD classes or events.  I have listed an event just for immigration lawyers in September.  There has so far been zero interest.   That's right.  Zero.  Most lawyers are already in our system already and have been completing ordinary CPD with us for years.  That means the lawyers who want to be in this profession are already well established within it.  There is no flood of lawyers "chomping at the bit" to enter the profession.
 
Prior to the recent change, lawyers used to pay the annual registration fee to the Office of the MARA and they were registered.  If this registration fee was the only thing stopping lawyers practicing migration law, then as RMAs these lawyers are the last people we need to be worried about.  
 
In short, RMAs need to focus on gaining soft-skills like digital marketing, Facebook advertising, social media, lead generation, marketing funnels, client retention, and technology instead of wasting the next year worrying about what is to come.  We can all spend some time working out how we can work hand-in-hand with lawyers.  There are complimentary skill sets there.   The government is not looking to remove RMAs from the system.  Our profession is simply becoming even more professional.
 
2. Scaremongering
 
Agents have reported they are noticing scaremongering taking place in the profession, in the name of all the points raised above.  This scaremongering by "outraged agitators" is creating an unnecessary divide between two very closely related, and complimentary professions.   This scaremongering is in my view about people giving themselves some kind of personal legitimacy. Nothing more.
 
As RMAs we will co-exist alongside lawyers and create professional synergies.  RMAs are asked many questions about many things, sometimes in areas we are not authorised to talk about.  These questions can easily be referred to a competent lawyer to carry out that type of work, and and vice-versa.   Many lawyers will advertise their services in migration law, but ask RMAs to carry out that work, as part of their total offering to their own clients.
 
I would like to create a positive atmosphere around this subject before these toxic comments and posts by "outraged agitators" create further, unnecessary division between lawyers and agents.  There is and always was enough work to go around for everyone.
 
Let's all be proud of one another and not spend our time segregating ourselves off as if we are under threat.  RMAs have our own unique skill sets that lawyers can lean on when they feel unsure in this ever-changing space, just as we can lean on lawyers when we need something from them that's not our core area of expertise.  This is not an "Us v Them" moment. 
 
I for one will fight tooth and nail to ensure that the high status of RMAs continue to thrive, alongside our fellow lawyers. 
 
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  • Guest
    Will Levingston Wednesday, 08 July 2020

    Well said Liana.

    The deregulation will not open the “flood gates”. Any hype over this new deregulation is completely unfounded.

    Good to see a post from MA settling the waves from individuals who have no interest in creating comradeship, just scaremongering.

  • Guest
    Mohamed Lamin Kondeh Wednesday, 08 July 2020

    Thanks Liana. We need to unite, share similar interests,respect each other and work hand in hand.

  • Guest
    Robert Wednesday, 08 July 2020

    However - the "submissions" put forward they the Law council regarding RMA's IS something to be concerned about.

    I'll happily argue Migration Law with 90% of Australian Lawyers, who for the most part have no idea at all in this area. However that's not the problem.

    Has anyone actually read the misnomered "Efficacy of current regulation of Australian migration agents (submission 10)" scraped off a shoe by the Law Council of Australia on 11 May 2018.

    There are a number of items that can be clearly seen as an attack on the profession.

    The stifling of RMA applicants with somewhat rigged "Capstone tests" is an indicator of the strategy.

    The question is not if RMA's will have to "compete" with Lawyers, that is not the strategic aim (of the Law Council).

  • Guest
    Robert K Chelliah Marn 92-54011 Wednesday, 08 July 2020

    Liana, Have you read, analysed the recommendation made there in. Do you remember the racist attacks mounted against RMAs a decade or two ago when the powers that be lobbied for all future and existing agents to sit for IELTS for a higher score without proving to what extend the there was a problem with English language , and i think MIA may have been a commission agent for IELTS than. That charge was wormed in by again the Lawyers. IT is no secret the lawyers have always been structural division based on superiority just because they lawyers have spent a few years studying laws. They forgot migration assistance is not just about a narrow band of coded laws, it involves the holistic understanding a human behavior The powers be forgot something called RPL, and let me inform you here and now i was one of the first RAMs to register in 1992 when registration was introduced and since than I never sat a for SINGLE exam, an yet I have handled may complex cases and migration issues at all level. I can produce reams of excellent testimonials from my satisfied clients, the only benchmark of successful practitioner, to evidence that there is nothing wanting in me as an RMA of 30 years experience. Can you, Liana, assure me there will not be new demands put on existing RMA's like me based on the submission made by the Law Council, with an air of superiority and subtle arrogance that runs through their submission. As I have been saying what is the benchmark fora "world class migration advice service " .There is none.

  • Guest
    C Chen Sydney RMA Thursday, 09 July 2020

    Robert as if Liana would forget the fact she went to Parliament House in Canberra to stop the government imposing the IELTS test on behalf of the whole profession. The only difference between that Liana then and this Liana now is that she is stronger, wiser and is getting along better with government. That bodes well in our favour if you ask me.

  • Guest
    Jack Li Thursday, 09 July 2020

    Submission
    LCA – Efficacy of current regulation of Australian migration Agents
    It can be downloaded here: https://migrationresourcesptyltd.cmail20.com/t/d-l-bwae-yhtkyduin-k/
    11 May 2018
    Some points here:
    1. Banning RMAs from representing clients at the AAT
    2. Banning RMAs from advising on citizenship matters
    3. Increasing the English test minimum score for new RMAs to IELTS 7.5 Overall on the Academic Version

  • Liana - Allan
    Liana - Allan Thursday, 09 July 2020

    1. Banning RMAs from representing clients at the AAT - I AM AGAINST THIS
    2. Banning RMAs from advising on citizenship matters - I AM AGAINST THIS
    3. Increasing the English test minimum score for new RMAs to IELTS 7.5 Overall on the Academic Version I AM AGAINST THIS

    There is a way I like to approach these things. I do not plan to go in hot-headed and combative.

  • Guest
    Robert Thursday, 09 July 2020

    list feature not working....
    (1) Higher English requirement (for new RMA's)
    (2) Supervised practice (for new RMA's - in the full knowledge that such "supervised practice" can only be performed in large companies /law firms, and is a blatant grab for o/s client base)
    (3) Tier system - "conditional registration"
    (4) Only RMA's allowed to represent before a court or review authority (please note the wording and intended association/implication)
    (5) Recommendation 5 is simply a re-wording and "emphasis" on the irrelevant parts of recommendation 4.
    (6) Exclusion of RMA's to advertise that they "specialise" in particular areas of Migration assistance ( in the full knowledge of the pretence that this is or should be a "protected word" with reference to Lawyers - particularly the false premise that the public associates the word with lawyers)
    (7) The use of the term "practicing certificate" by MA (this is a continuation of the previous point - with the false assumption that the public associates the term with lawyers)
    (8) Education agents should be prohibited from giving Migration advice (and what about the other current exemptions?)
    (9) OMARA actually do something about unregistered hacks (including the "eddie's).
    (10) RMA's be prohibited on giving advice on or assistance with Citizenship.
    (11) Prohibiting RMA's from performing/providing other services.

  • Guest
    Robert Thursday, 09 July 2020

    Liana, please make the strategy known.

    If you are acting on behalf of MA membership, then the membership should be informed of actions/inaction taken on their behalf.

    In addition to the 3 points stated above - there are many other idiocies designed to stifle the profession. Perhaps you could outline your position on all of them?
    Higher English requirement (for new RMA's)


      Supervised practice (for new RMA's - in the full knowledge that such "supervised practice" can only be performed in large companies /law firms, and is a blatant grab for o/s client base)
      Tier system - "conditional registration"
      Only RMA's allowed to represent before a court or review authority (please note the wording and intended association/implication)
      Recommendation 5 is simply a re-wording and "emphasis" on the irrelevant parts of recommendation 4.
      Exclusion of RMA's to advertise that they "specialise" in particular areas of Migration assistance ( in the full knowledge of the pretence that this is or should be a "protected word" with reference to Lawyers - particularly the false premise that the public associates the word with lawyers)
      The use of the term "practicing certificate" by MA (this is a continuation of the previous point - with the false assumption that the public associates the term with lawyers)
      Education agent should be prohibited from giving Migration advice (and what about the other current exemptions?)
      OMARA actually do something about unregistered hacks.
      RMA's be prohibited on giving advice about Citizenship.
      Prohibiting RMA's from performing/providing other services.

  • Guest
    John F - lawyer Thursday, 09 July 2020

    Its not like Liana Allan is ever going to leave our RMA profession in the lurch. In fact from my memory she is the only one who has ever truly fought for us, for example with the English Language Test the government was going to retrospectively impose on us all. Remember how Liana Allan single-handedly forced this English Test to be stopped by flying to Canberra and meeting with Senator Cash, who then reversed the decision? I predict Liana Allan has something in mind for this problem. I do think is that she is not approaching the fight from a position of anger and belligerence which if we can look at it, is actually good strategic starting position. It seems when she goes in she will be the face of reasonable for us RMAs. This is a good way to begin a fight if you want to win. Nobody really listens to the whinging whining guy. They listen to a voice of calm and reason.
    Let us have faith.
    Read the last line of what she wrote.
    Also, the Law Council's submission is just a submission.

  • Guest
    Anthony Robinson Thursday, 09 July 2020

    My name is Anthony Robinson of AR LAW SERVICES - for transparency - I am not only an immigration lawyer and have been for over 20 years but I sit on the Victorian Law Institute Committee for migration law and I am the founder and MD of the Victorian Immigration Solicitors' Alliance: VISA. Firstly it is a great article Liana and a positive step!

    For anyone who has followed my struggle with the MIA (I first joined the MIA in 2003 and was expelled in April this year following my setting up of the Victorian Immigration Solicitors' Alliance: VISA for more https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/heretic-expelled-banished-from-mia-anthony-robinson?trk=portfolio_article-card_title)

    As I said to Liana just last Sunday and as I have written time and time again VISA is not "anti" RMA - some of my best friends are agents, and I have employed many agents through my businesses over the last 20 years - in fact AR LAW SERVICE is often retained by many migration agents over the last 20 years to handle AAT and Federal Court appeals (ask about our MA RMA discount arlaw.com.au)

    VISA is motivated to ensure the rule of law is promoted, protect the rights of migrants and refugees and to "build" a fairer and more cost effective Australian migration system.

    As I said to Liana, I and VISA see a constructive future of collaborative work between Immigration Lawyers and RMAs: a chance to work hand in glove for the rights of our clients. To me and VISA the removal of "red tape" should be seen as a good and positive thing: One less distraction so that we - immigration lawyers and RMAs - can concentrate on the job at hand - looking after our clients' needs.

    On a separate but related point - I have long been a member of the MA as well as the MIA. And if my recent expulsion by the MIA board following the setting up of VISA has taught me anything it is this - Liana and the MA truly have the interests of RMAs at heart. Whereas the MIA board clearly is motivated by self preservation and the protection of a flawed business model which puts self interest at the fore rather than the interests and rights of migrants and refugees.

    In closing I would urge RMAs to stop wasting money. Join the MA and join VISA (membership opens soon) By being member of both MA & VISA you not only save money but get access to incredible member benefits.

    Cheers
    Anthony

  • Guest
    Glenn Friday, 10 July 2020

    3 RMA organisations.

    Is it required?

    ANOTHER REPRESENTATION ORGANISATION - Immigration Advisory Australia (IAA)

    MIGRATION SHOW ANNOUNCEMENT

    PUSHING BACK AGAINST RMA RESTRICTIONS, TIERS, CAPSTONE EXAMS AND MUCH MORE

    NEW RMA ORGANISATION TO BE ANNOUNCED

    SPECIAL GUEST MELANIE DOUGLAS

    We'll talk with special guest RMA Melanie Douglas who will provide details of Immigration Advisory Australia (IAA), the new RMA organisation being formed in response to Deregulation, the DHA Enquiry, MIA/MA, and the need for an organisation that solely represents Registered Migration Agents

    CAPSTONE CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT?
    We'll also discuss details of plans in the industry for a proposed class action lawsuit to be taken on behalf of students who have failed the Capstone exam (80%+ Failure Rate since inception) or may be affected by the Capstone Exam going forward.

  • Guest
    Barry Saturday, 11 July 2020

    There's no need for 3. The 3rd one, IAA, isn't going to do much more than what is already being done. It is simply a copy/replica. We have MIA and MA. Maybe MIA and MA should join forces. Barry

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