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Agents can be passport to success

AUSTRALIA’S immigration program is always well debated and ministerial consultations are held with a range of community organisations each year.

However, a great number of applicants who seek advice and assistance in terms of visa eligibility or processing procedures are not aware of the registered migration agent network available throughout Australia.

There are more than 2,500 registered migration agents in Australian providing advice and processing assistance to individuals, families and company clients across the full range of visa categories in the skilled, family and humanitarian programs.

In March 1998, the Migration Institute of Australia Limited was appointed as the Migration Agents’ Registration Authority to oversee the statutory self-regulation of all agents and to ensure professional services provided were carried out in an efficient, ethical and competent manner.

The MARA monitors the conduct of registered agents and can investigate complaints that arise and offer mediation and alternate dispute resolution if required.

Under the Migration Act, a new code of conduct provides for a strong professional development program that requires agents to comply with mandatory standards each year to ensure re-registration through the MARA.

Each gazetted program is assessed against established guidelines and presented to the Minister for approval.

The Migration Institute of Australia has branches in each state and conducts education sessions gazetted by the MARA and approved to comply with continuing professional development requirements.

Included in more than 250 gazetted education programs are courses established by the Migration Institute of Australia in conjunction with Deakin University for entry level examinations in Immigration Law and modules for professional development updates.

With the increasing internationalisation of business in Australia, employers can utilise a range of temporary residence visa facilities for overseas associates.

These can cover short-term visits for conferences and training, or longer stays for ‘key activity’ specialists for up to four years provided they are supported by the Australian company sponsorship.

Overseas companies can also nominate an applicant to assist in the establishment of a branch office in Australia.

Overseas business executives who wish to establish their own company in Australia can make application for a four year temporary residence visa. Such a visa may lead to permanent residency depending on whether the Australian venture fulfils specified investment and performance criteria.

Business visitor visas are available to enable exploratory visits and research for the intended business.

A key principle in reviewing eligibility for the major temporary residence visa classes is the ‘benefit to Australia’ test. This takes into account likely outcomes of specialist em-ployment or planned business investment.

Factors considered include the impact on employment and training, development of exports, international links, new technology or business skills and overall stimulation of commercial activity.

The 1995 Roach Committee report led to significant changes in temporary residence and business entry requirements as many of the previous policies were seen to be very restrictive and did not support the attraction of skills and investment, particularly into the small business sector.

It is important for employers in Australia to have a clear understanding of conditions that apply to visitor and temporary entry visa holders, particularly in relation to employment and periods of stay.

Apart from the normal migration program each year, agents are able to assist business in the areas of temporary residence for skilled specialists and to advise on the requirements for company sponsorship and factors such as labour market testing.

Confidential assessments can be made of employer needs with advice provided on the appropriate visa category.

Within the total migration program of 70,000 places for 1999-2000, 35,000 places are set aside for the skilled stream including independent and skilled sponsored applicants, business skills and employer nomination categories.

New provisions for the skilled categories launched on 1 July direct the General Points Test profiles to young, qualified applicants with relevant work experience and who may also have Australian qualifications, work experience and specific international language skills.

Other visa sub-classes are available to encourage skilled migrants into regional Australia.

There is considerable experience available to business through the registered migration agent network. Businesses can link into the authority or institute websites on www.mia.aust.com

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