Migration Agents Registration Authority
|Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (Office of the MARA)|
|Formed||1 July 2009|
|Superseding agency||Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA)|
|Jurisdiction||Commonwealth of Australia|
|Agency executive||Stephen Wood, CEO|
|Parent agency||Department of Immigration and Citizenship|
The Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (Office of the MARA) is an Australian Government authority that regulates the Migration Agents profession. Migration agents assist people to migrate to Australia by using their knowledge of Australian visas and immigration law to complete necessary visa applications  and represent them in dealings with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (previously the Department of Immigration and Citizenship).
Under Australian law (Migration Act 1958, Part 3) any person who gives "immigration assistance" must usually be a Registered Migration Agent. The term "immigration assistance" is defined in section 276 of the Act to cover using, or purporting to use, knowledge of or experience in migration procedure to advise or assist various people with visa applications and related sponsorships, appeals, etc.
On 9 February 2009, after a review, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, announced new arrangements to govern migration agents. Under these new arrangements, the Office of the MARA, was established on 1 July 2009. Previously, the legislation appointed an organisation called the Migration Institute of Australia Limited (MIA) to function as the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA), which was charged with maintaining a register of migration agents and carrying out a variety of functions under the Act in relation to supervision and discipline of agents.
The Office of the MARA is a discrete office attached to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. It is led by a Chief Executive Officer who reports directly to the Secretary of the Department. They are located in Sydney, but operate nationally.
The functions of the Office of the MARA are set out in s316 of the Migration Act 1958. Key objectives are to ensure that:
• only suitable persons are registered as migration agents, and unsuitable persons are refused registration or re-registration • registered agents maintain appropriate knowledge to enable them to provide accurate advice to consumers • all complaints about the services of registered, or formerly registered migration agents are appropriately addressed • the Office of the MARA works collaboratively with the department and other bodies such as prosecuting or regulatory authorities to address the activities of agents outside its mandate • consumers understand their rights and agents understand their obligations under the regulatory framework.
Migration Agents registered before July 2006 were not required to undertake any formal studies. A multiple-choice exam called the MAPKEE was used as the measure of knowledge of immigration rules and procedures. Since then new applicants must either have a current practising certificate as a lawyer or charted accountant or must undertake a Graduate Certificate in Australian Migration Law and Practice.
All registered migration agents are required to complete approved continuing professional development (CPD) each year prior to re-registration. The Office of the MARA also regulates organisations that provide CPD activities to registered migration agents.
The Office has the power to place sanctions on agents who they determine do not act either ethically, honestly, legally or in the best interests of their clients. These sanction can include a caution, registration suspension and cancellation.
Since 1998 over 18 per cent of the MARA’s sanction decisions have been against lawyer agents with a legal practising certificate. This percentage is overrepresentative to the number of lawyers who are registered migration agents.
Similar bodies in other countries
In the United Kingdom the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) performs a similar function to the MARA, as does the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) in Canada. However, in both countries practising lawyers are regulated by their own professional bodies. In the United States, only practising lawyers may perform such functions.
- Immigration to Australia
- Migration Institute of Australia (MIA)
- Department of Immigration and Citizenship (Australia) (DIAC)
- Visas and Immigration http://www.immi.gov.au/immigration.htm
- Find a registered migration agents https://www.mara.gov.au/Consumer-Information/Find-Agents/default.aspx
- How to choose a registered migration agent https://www.mara.gov.au/Consumer-Information/How-to-Choose-a-Migration-Agent/default.aspx
- Agent Fees https://www.mara.gov.au/Consumer-Information/What-does-it-cost-to-use-an-Agent-/default.aspx
- How to make a complaint https://www.mara.gov.au/Consumer-Information/Making-a-complaint-about-a-RMA/default.aspx
- Migration Act 1958, latest compilation
- 2007-08 migration advice profession review report at the Department of Immigration website.
- Contacting The Office of the MARA https://www.mara.gov.au/About-Us/Contact-Us/default.aspx
- Registration Requirements
- CPD Requirements
- Law Society of NSW, Law Institute of Victoria, Queensland Law Society, Law Society of South Australia
- 2007–08 Review of Statutory Self-Regulation of the Migration Advice Profession Discussion Paper September 2007 http://www.mara.com.au/_attach/2007-08-migration-advice-profession-review-report.pdf