25 February 2021 - New OMARA website and secure portal coming soon
The Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA) is developing a new website, which will link to a new secure portal for registered migration agents (RMAs) and continuing professional development (CPD) providers.
The new OMARA website and portal are due to be launched and ready for use on 22 March 2021.
To facilitate the release of the new website, the agent’s secure portal on the current OMARA website will be shut down from 5pm on Wednesday 17 March 2021. The new website and agent’s portal are expected to be available on Monday 22 March 2021.
Further information on the new website and portal will be provided in the coming weeks.
16 February 2021 – Restricted legal practising certificate (RLPC) holders – applications for initial registration as a migration agent
If you hold an RLPC and intend to apply for initial registration as a migration agent, please be aware that after the commencement of the new legislation you will need to also complete the prescribed course (the Graduate Diploma in Australian Migration Law and Practice) and the prescribed exam (the Capstone). A legal practising certificate will no longer be a prescribed qualification.
If you apply for initial registration before the commencement of the new legislation, even if your application is not decided before commencement, the decision will be made in accordance with the legislation as it stood prior to the amendments.
12 February 2021 - New Form 956 coming soon
A new paper version of Form 956 Advice by a registered migration agent/exempt person of providing immigration assistance will be released to allow for legal practitioners to notify the Department of Home Affairs (the Department) of their appointment to provide immigration assistance to a client. The new version of the form will be titled Form 956 Appointment of a registered migration agent, legal practitioner or exempt person.
Until Departmental systems are upgraded to facilitate the identification of legal practitioners lawfully providing immigration assistance (expected July 2021), the new version of the paper form 956 must be used with all new clients as of 22 March 2021 where a legal practitioner has been appointed by a client to provide immigration assistance under the Migration Act 1958. Further information will be provided when the new form is available on the Department’s website for download.
7 January 2020 - All-agent email requiring action from Australian Legal Practising Certificate holders
OMARA sent an email to all registered migration agents requesting certain holders of Australian Legal Practising Certificates to provide information to the OMARA ahead of the legislative change coming into effect on 22 March 2021. The full email can be found on the ‘Removal of unrestricted lawyers page’ of the OMARA website.
Removal of unrestricted lawyers
18 December 2020 - Summary of Migration Advice Industry Advisory Group meeting
The Migration Advice Industry Advisory Group met for the first time on 19 November 2020. A brief summary of the meeting is on the Department of Home Affairs website.
Advisory Group meeting summary
18 December 2020 - Capstone Assessment Approach to Market
The Approach to Market for a new provider of the Migration Agents Capstone Assessment (HOMEAFFAIRS/2051/RFP) is now available on AusTender. This is an open approach to market and the documentation for HOMEAFFAIRS/2051/RFP can only be obtained through AusTender. Any question on HOMEAFFAIRS/2051/RFP must be addressed through the contact point firstname.lastname@example.org
6 November 2020 - Migration Advice Industry Advisory Group membership
The Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Jason Wood MP, has appointed 26 members to the newly established Migration Advice Industry Advisory Group (the Advisory Group).
The list of Advisory Group members is available on the Department’s website at: https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/reports-and-publications/submissions-and-discussion-papers/migration-advice-industry-advisory-group-nomination
20 October 2020 - Fact sheet: Removal of unrestricted lawyers from the OMARA regulatory scheme
The factsheet below addresses misinformation and provides further context on the changes associated with the Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) Act 2020 and what it means for RMAs.
The OMARA website remains the most accurate and up-to-date source of information regarding the removal of unrestricted lawyers from the OMARA regulatory scheme.
Factsheet: Removal of unrestricted lawyers from the OMARA regulatory scheme
25 August 2020 - Nominations for membership of the Migration Advice Industry Advisory Group
The Department of Home Affairs is now seeking nominations for membership of the Migration Advice Industry Advisory Group from experts with demonstrated practical experience in the migration advice industry. Further information and the nomination form can be found at the following link: https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/reports-and-publications/submissions-and-discussion-papers/migration-advice-industry-advisory-group-nomination
14 August 2020 - Implementation of the Acts Package
The Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) Act 2020 and Migration Agents Registration Application Charge Amendment (Rates of Charge) Act 2020 (the Acts Package) received the Royal Assent on 22 June 2020. The subordinate regulations - Migration Agents Regulations 1998 and Migration Agents Registration Application Charge Regulations 1998 – will be amended accordingly, and the commencement of the amendments will be linked to the relevant schedules of the Acts Package.
The key schedule of the Acts Package, which removes the requirement for unrestricted legal practising certificate holders who give immigration assistance to register with the OMARA, will commence no later than 22 March 2021 (nine months after the Royal Assent). Until that time, legal practitioners must continue to register with the OMARA and pay an application fee in order to provide immigration assistance. Penalties still apply for providing immigration assistance if not a registered migration agent or exempt person. Another schedule, that together with the amended regulations, will increase the period available to an individual to apply for repeat registration as a registered migration agent (RMA) from 12 months to three years, will commence at the same time. We will provide comprehensive advice to the industry in the lead up to the commencement of these provisions.
On 11 August, some other measures of the Acts Package came into force, including:
- removing redundant provisions in Part 3 of the Migration Act 1958, which governsRMAs.
- allowing the OMARA to refuse an application for registration as an RMA if the applicant does not provide requested information, instead of leaving the application unfinalised indefinitely. This change will improve the administrative efficiency of the OMARA.
- expansion of the definitions of 'immigration assistance' and 'makes immigration representations' for the purposes of Part 3 of the Migration Act 1958 to include assisting a person to make a representation to the Minister in relation to the revocation of a visa refusal or cancellation decision on character grounds under section 501C or 501CA. These amendments will deter those not registered as RMAs from assisting another person in making such representations to the Minister, and penalties will apply. Visa refusals and cancellations on character grounds are complex matters and the impact on an affected individual of poor advice or representation has the potential to be very damaging. As such, this amendment would better protect vulnerable consumers by ensuring only RMAs can lawfully assist them.
On 15 October, a further amendment will come into force, to clarify that an RMA who has paid the non‑commercial application charge, but gives immigration assistance otherwise than on a non‑commercial basis, is liable to pay an adjusted charge.
The Acts are accessible from the Federal Register of Legislation at: www.legislation.gov.au
14 August 2020 - Capstone announcement
We bring to your attention that the College of Law has today made an announcement on their website regarding the future delivery of the Migration Agents Capstone Assessment.
College of Law website
Further information about the future delivery of the Migration Agents Capstone Assessment is available on the Capstone frequently asked questions (FAQs) page of the OMARA website.
Capstone frequently asked questions
If the FAQs do not address your particular issue, and you require further information from the Department of Home Affairs, please contact Capstoneenquiries@homeaffairs.gov.au
17 June 2020 - Bill package passes the Senate
The Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) Bill 2019 and Migration Agents Registration Application Charge Amendment (Rates of Charge) Bill 2019 (the Bill package) passed the Senate on Monday 15 June 2020.
The Bill package comprises several different parts across the two pieces of legislation - the Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) Bill 2019 and Migration Agents Registration Application Charge Amendment (Rates of Charge) Bill 2019.
You can read about the Bills in detail at:
In general terms, most of the Bill package will commence six or nine months after the Royal Assent, or at specified dates within that six or nine month period. The Bills are expected to receive the Royal Assent in the next few working days. The Department of Home Affairs will provide comprehensive advice to the industry closer to the commencement dates to allow them to prepare for the changes to the regulatory framework.
There is no change to current legislative requirements until the Bills commence. Until that time, legal practitioners still need to register with the OMARA and pay an application fee in order to provide immigration assistance. Penalties still apply for providing immigration assistance if not a registered migration agent or exempt person.
There will be no refund on the registration (or repeat registration) application charge for legal practitioners who will be removed from the OMARA regulatory framework at the commencement of the Bill package. The registration application charge imposed by section 4 of the Migration Agents Registration Application Charge Act 1997 is for the assessment of a registration application, which is completed when a registration application is assessed and decided. It is not a yearly registration fee. Pursuant to section 288(7) of the Migration Act 1958, registration application fees are non-refundable.
Further details on implementing these changes will be provided as they come to hand.
25 January 2019 - Updated practice guides
The OMARA practice guides to assist registered migration agents in meeting their obligations under the Code of Conduct for RMAs have been updated and are now available on the OMARA website. All registered migration agents are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the guides.
2 May 2017 - Recent regulation changes
This update provides information on a number of changes to the Migration Agents Regulations which took effect on 18 April 2017.
Continuing professional development (CPD)
As a result of Recommendation 10 of the Independent Review of OMARA, a new simplified CPD framework will be implemented from 1 January 2018. A number of changes that will be of interest to CPD providers are reflected in the revised regulations. There will be no change in regard to the CPD requirements for agents who will continue to be required to complete the specified 10 CPD points each year. Further detail will be provided in the lead up to implementation.
Average fee information collection
There has also been a minor change relating to the collection of information about fees charged by migration agents. This change gives the OMARA the flexibility to consider more efficient ways of collecting the data.
Immigration assistance given by Agents as employers and sponsors
Amendments to the regulations now make it clear that whatever role an agent plays in relation to a visa application, they are at all times subject to the Code of Conduct (the Code). For example, a registered migration agent who is giving immigration assistance to an individual in their capacity as that individual’s employer or sponsor, must conduct themselves in accordance with the Code. This enhances consumer protection as it corrects an anomaly where agents in this circumstance were able to avoid their obligations under the Code.
Minor amendments have been made to the Code such that an agent is not prevented from giving immigration assistance to an individual they employ or sponsor unless there is conflict of interest.
The amended version of the Code is now available on the OMARA website.
Code of Conduct
3 March 2017 - Upcoming CPD changes
Recommendation 10 of the Independent Review of the OMARA suggested substantial changes to the provision of CPD for registered migration agents.
Recommendation 10 reads:
The Inquiry recommends the creation of a more open and competitive market-based framework for the provision of CPD. In such a framework, the role of the OMARA will be significantly reduced and generally restricted to:
• determining the eligibility of a firm or organisation to provide CPD services – noting that, beyond having to meet defined criteria, the type and number of service providers that can operate should be determined by the market;
• setting the requirements for registered agents to complete CPD learnings in core competency areas, noting that this should be structured to allow greater flexibility and variance in the learning offered; and
• monitoring compliance by registered agents with CPD requirements, preferably as part of the re-registration process for migration agents.
Work is underway to implement a new scheme, which will take effect on 1 January 2018. Detailed information on the changes will be published in April 2017, following amendment of the regulations.