- The dual regulation of migration law practice is set to end on 22 March 2021.
- Subject to the conditions on their practising certificate, Australian legal practitioners will be able to provide immigration assistance in connection with legal practice without holding registration as a migration agent.
- This article outlines the key features and practical compliance implications of the reforms.
The dual regulation of migration law practice is finally set to end on 22 March 2021. The journey away from dual regulation of Australian Legal Practitioners practising in this field began more than six years ago with the independent Review of the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (the ‘OMARA’) undertaken by Dr Christopher Kendall (‘the Review’).
The Review formed the basis of a campaign toward developing the Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) Bill 2019 and Migration Agents Registration Application Charge Amendment (Rates of Charge) Bill 2019. Subsequently, the Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) Act 2020 (the ‘new legislation’) was passed by both Houses of Parliament on 15 June 2020, and will come into effect on 22 March 2021.
The new legislation will amend the Migration Act 1958 so that Australian legal practitioners holding practising certificates that are not subject to supervision will no longer be required, or entitled, to register with the OMARA as migration agents.
Importantly, after the commencement of the new legislation and subject to the conditions on their practising certificate, Australian legal practitioners will be able to provide immigration assistance in connection with legal practice without holding registration as a migration agent (‘RMA’) with the OMARA.
In summary, the Migration Act defines ‘immigration assistance’ as advising or assisting a visa applicant, or review applicant, with an application for a visa or visa cancellation procedure before the Department of Home Affairs, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or the Minister acting personally (s 276). Under the new legislation, ‘immigration assistance’ delivered by Australian legal practitioners in ‘connection with legal practice’ will be regulated solely by the designated local regulatory authority (‘DLRA’) for a jurisdiction. In NSW, the DLRA is the Law Society of NSW in respect of practising certificates and the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner in respect of complaints.
NSW practitioners who currently provide immigration assistance as registered migration agents are urged to review the conditions on their current practising certificate to ensure it will, if required, entitle them to provide ‘immigration assistance in connection with legal practice’ when the new legislation commences.