This weeks gem of common sense...
I have talked to this subject before, but I am seeing an increasing rate of posts regarding using and agent, and regrettably, posts about bad or incompetent agents.
I won't discuss if or when you should use an agent, there are too many factors to generalise on a position. But I want to discuss what you should and should not do when you engage an agent.
To be clear, I am not an agent, nor ever have been. I do not represent an agent, or related immigration companies. I dont get any benefit monetary or otherwise from suggesting (or not suggesting) the use of an agent. They have their place, and purpose.
When choosing an agent in Australia, its fairly easy to be assured that you will be dealing with a professional. By law, anyone providing Immigration or related visa advice for a fee, must be registered by MARA, the Migration Agents Registration Authority, an Australian Government Agency. They register all suitable qualified agents, and publish these registration database so anyone can check. MARA is the only registration Authority for anyone, anywhere in the world to legally offer immigration services for a fee. However, its not as policed as we would like. There are countless fake agents operating in Australia, usually within a specific ethnic community, who are not MARA registered. Some, maybe most of these unregistered agents are very capable and professional, as they rely on their reputation to survive. But some are just crooks and con-artists. Confirming that your chosen agent is MARA registered is easy, and simple, and assures you that you will get a professional service. I will mention that there is a loose exemption for registered Travel agents to provide basic visa advice, but never for a fee.
Overseas is a whole different situation. Especially in the higher risk countries (ie India, China, Thailand, and most of SE. Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe) where there is often no government controls over who can operate as an Immigration agent, let alone them enforcing Australian law in another country. MARA and the Australian government can do nothing to stop bogus and fake agents claiming to be Australian Visa Agents when they are not in Australia. Again check if they are MARA registered. There are many MARA agents operating overseas, again they are listed on the MARA website.
Check, just always check: https://www.mara.gov.au/search-the-register-of-migration-agents/