Independent review of the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority: Red Tape Cut for Lawyers

Tuesday 12 May 2015 @ 10.18 a.m. | Immigration

In June 2014, the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, appointed Dr Christopher N. Kendall to conduct an independent review of the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA). As one of a host of recommendations, it has been suggested that ending the dual regulation of lawyers acting as migration agents would lessen the regulatory burden faced by these practitioners.

Terms of Reference of the Review

The review examined the performance of the OMARA as the industry regulator, its organisational capability and challenges, and the quality and effectiveness of its internal controls and governance.

Consistent with the government's commitment to de-regulation, the review examined the most appropriate organisational structure for regulating the migration advice sector in order to protect consumers.

It also examined the regulatory framework and powers of the OMARA to assess if they are still appropriate and identify opportunities to reduce regulatory burden.

Results of the Review

The review received 32 submissions from 24 individuals and groups. Dr Kendall also conducted interviews and teleconferences with a variety of stakeholders, including registered migration agents, legal services commissions and university providers.

Dr Kendall made 24 recommendations. The Government supports the majority of the review's recommendations.

Key measures to be implemented are:

  • removing lawyers from the migration agents' regulatory scheme;
  • strengthening the training and entry qualifications for new entrants into the migration agent profession;
  • reviewing the re-registration process for migration agents;
  • improving the management of Continuing Professional Development courses;
  • consolidating the OMARA into the Department of Immigration and Border Protection; and
  • reviewing the scope and content of the Code of Conduct.

Implementation of the review's recommendations will improve the integrity of the migration agents’ regulatory scheme and improve consumer outcomes. Implementation of the review's key recommendations will commence later in 2015.  The Department will consult with stakeholders on the implementation of these significant reforms, some of which will require legislative changes.

Reaction to the Review From the Profession

The Law Council of Australia, a major critic of the dual regulation system, welcomed the government's endorsement:

“The Law Council has always maintained that dual regulation of migration lawyers is an avoidable burden to governments, the community and the profession...The removal of dual regulation not only means a significant reduction in red tape, it will also contribute to better consumer protection and a stronger, united legal profession.”

However, the recommendation was opposed in a submission by the Migration Institute of Australia, which argued all migration advice providers should be subject to the same standards:

“There is also a need to ensure consistency in terms of consumer protection for the public when they are receiving advice on immigration matters, whether it be from lawyer or non-lawyer registered migration agents.”

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