Sunday, 28 August 2011

Visa application: Private or Agent

Many people looked at us as if we are crazy when we mentioned to them that we applied for our visa application via an agent. (We have a 176 NSW State Sponsored Skilled Visa)
I know it costs a lot of money, but I would like to share with you the reason we made use of an immigration agent.
At the 1st meeting we had with our agent, he asked us if our decision to move to Australia an INSURANCE or URGENT decision is. The answer to that question will determine many aspects of a visa application. The type of visa you may qualify for, the purpose and the urgency all plays a vital role. Different visa’s has different timelines to them.  Some applications may take 5 – 10 years to process and others may take as little as 2 or 3 months.
I am in no position to tell you to make use of an agent or not to, but I would like to share with you the reasons we made use of one:
·         Our time was limited.  See, Sarel was already 42 at the time we decided to apply.  We stood the best chance to get our visa with his skills.  In most cases, one can only apply for a Permanent Residency visa if you are under 45 years.  We did not want to take a chance with our own knowledge about the process and end up losing one or two years.  We wanted to get it right as quick as possible.  Hence, using someone who has all the knowledge.
·         We were not sure if all the detail of the application process and noticed that it changes all the time. We were afraid that we may use an outdated form or requirement and end up losing valuable time.  We trusted the agent to have the latest information.  Also being a Director of a busy company, Sarel and I did not have as much time to do all the research.  We prefer to spend our time wisely with regards to business of family and putting our faith in an agent allowed us to only do the research as required by the agent.
·         We have a complex family setup and wanted to make sure that all kids were correctly included in the application process.
      If you work against time, like having a deadline such as applicant age, kids who are turning a certain age or if you want the kids to be in their new school by a certain time, I would suggest you consider making use of an agent.  It may save you some valuable time.   

There is nothing wrong with completing the application process on your own, without help. There are many who have successfully done this before.  But when you decide to do it yourself, make sure you leave enough time for errors which may come in due to changed laws or processes, which you may not be aware of.
Our agent mentioned to us that once the application has been lodged, the ‘agent application’ has no advantage or go to a separate case officer.  They all end up in the same ‘box’ and are allocated from there to the different case officers.  The only advantage you may have as an “agent application” is that yours may be more correct. 
I know there are also many people who lost a lot of money due to corrupt or unethical agents.  Here is my advice on choosing a reliable agent, if you want to make use of one:
1.    Make sure that you have a reference of the agent. Somebody you can talk to about the service.  Even better if you know this reference of if it is a friend or family member.
2.    I would be very sceptical about giving thousands of Rand / Dollars to an agent for an initial meeting.  There should be no strings attached to such a meeting and it should not be much more than a normal consultation with a lawyer.  You need to get a feel about the agent and must be able to get necessary information without breaking the bank.
3.    An Agent who works in Australia MUST be registered with The Migration Agents Registration Authority. (www.themara.com.au). A reliable agent will have a MARA number. This number can be reference checked.  These agents also need to comply with a code of conduct and if they are found to be in contravention of this Code, they may not practice any further.  Many South Africans (as well as expats) operate from Australia under this MARA number.  They are also being kept up to date with the legislative and procedural changes to the immigration process.
4.    Outside of Australia, the agents need not be registered, but many of them are registered with the professional body, The Migration Institute of Australia (www.mia.org.au). These registered agents get all the latest and updated information needed about the immigration process to Australia - directly from the immigration authorities.
5.    You have to trust and feel good about the agent.  This person is going to deal with your most intimate, sensitive en confidential information and if you do not feel comfortable with him/her, you may have a problem.
In Conclusion, I have family and friends who did the whole application process on their own, without hic-ups.  I also have friends and family who tried to do it themselves and missed important deadlines.  You need to weigh up the options, cost and deadlines for yourself.
I hope above information will be of help in your decision about agent or not.

(In case you need the name and details of the agent who did our visa application, I will send it to you.  Please just send your request via a comment, including your email address and I will get the comment directly to my email and will send you the information.  I will not post your comment.)

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