7 Important Things To Look Out For When Choosing An Immigration Lawyer

7 Important Things To Look Out For When Choosing An Immigration Lawyer

When it comes to choosing an immigration lawyer to handle your particular immigration case, it is not a decision that should be taken lightly.

After all, packing up your life and moving to another country is a massive decision in itself and navigating the bureaucratic challenges of Australian visa application can be made even more troublesome if you don’t have the right people on your side.

Facts are that a good Australian immigration lawyer can be the deciding factor between getting your visa approved and ticket booked or the entire process becoming your veritable immigration nightmare.

In this article, we’ll explore 7 things that you need to look out for and questions you should ask yourself/potential candidates before taking them on so that you can be confident you have the best immigration lawyer in Australia working on your case.

1. Is Your Immigration Lawyer Even Registered?

If you’ve done a bit of your own homework (which you rightly should), you’ll probably have noticed that there are two types of professionals claiming to be able to help you with your visa application to Australia:

  1. Migration agents; and
  2. Immigration lawyers

Now, the biggest difference between the two is ultimately the level of qualifications and time required to be regarded as “qualified” to take on your application.

Today, migration agents typically have to take a 12 month course and pass an exam in order to enter the industry. That being said, there is no actual practical legal training that is required to qualify and they can work unsupervised.

Immigration lawyers, on the other hand, are required by law (the irony) to undertake studies to get a law degree, with additional post-degree qualifications and the practical experience working in a firm before they can be admitted to the Supreme Court in their respective state to practice law.

They also require 2 years of supervision in their working capacity to strike out on their own. 

Due to the very nature of their profession, immigration lawyers are required to adhere to the Code of Conduct and the Solicitors Conduct Rules — as well as having to be registered with OMARA (Office of The Migration Agents Registration Authority).

Unlike companies that are purely migration agents, these lawyers are backed up by an institutional and regulated framework that means they are accountable for absolutely everything they do.

Starting to see the difference and why having a registered immigration lawyer matters?

2. Do They Have The Experience/Expertise To Help You?

There are many general practice firms that claim to have immigration experts that are available to deal with your case, but how can you be so sure that they are experts in immigration law?

The landscape of immigration law, policies and regulations is in a constant state of flux and there are over 140 visa subclasses in Australia to choose from…

Without a dedicated immigration professional that knows exactly what the most suitable visa roadmap for you is, you’d be left crippled with anxiety and overwhelmed by choice — kind of like browsing endlessly through Netflix on a Friday night.

So, how do you go about discovering whether or not you’re dealing with someone that has the right legal chops to help you out?

Well, for starters, make sure you’re dealing with a firm that specializes in immigration law (much like Aejis Migration does) and take a look at the content they’re publishing on their site:

  • Is their page content a little thin with links simply redirecting you out to official government resources? 
  • Do they have an immigration blog with information pertaining to the visa category you’re considering?
  • Do they have FAQs to help answer your questions without you having to contact them directly?

Once you’ve done your research, you should have a clear idea of whether or not they’re a good fit to schedule a consultation and to take the conversation forward.

3. What is The Level of Communication/Responsiveness That Can Be Expected?

When you’re making as big of a life-changing decision as moving to another country is, you’d naturally hope that the people you choose to engage to help will take your case as a matter of priority/urgency and that it is treated with the utmost respect and care (see #7 below).

Yes, COVID-19 has thrown an imposing spanner in the proverbial works of things, but that doesn’t mean that people need to stop planning their lives as the entire immigration process does take some time — and time is all that we have now.

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The best immigration lawyers will always take the time to follow up with their clients promptly and with clarity, so as soon as you’ve reached out to a potential candidate, you should consider the following:

  • How long does it take for them to follow up with your inquiry? 
  • Do they offer to call you for a free, no-strings-attached consultation? 
  • How much free information do they provide that is actually helpful in your decision-making process?
  • Do they follow up with you after your initial consultation when they say they will?

By answering these questions by yourself, you’ll understand how important your case is to them and whether they’d be a suitable long-term partner to guide you through the entire process.

4. Are They Upfront About The Risks Involved With Your Application?

This certainly touches upon the above point with regards to communication and transparency, but it deserves its own place as it is one of those important things that people often tend to gloss over as it might mean they’ll lose out on your business.

Working with someone that is candidly realistic about your chances is a heck of a lot better than banking on empty promises.

Each case is different and every visa roadmap should be tailored to your unique situation.

As such there will be certain mitigating factors that need to be articulated in no uncertain terms from the get-go.

The facts are that not 100% of visa applications will be successful — no matter how minimal the risks are or how confident the lawyer may seem — so it’s always best to make sure that the risks are communicated to you and you understand this going in.

A healthy measure of honesty with costs (see #6 below), timelines, processing and the expected outcome is necessary to ensure a professional working relationship.

Beware of anyone that gives you a guarantee!

5. Have They Pushed Through Successful Applications From Citizens of Your Native Country?

Most (if not all) of our buying decisions are influenced by peer referrals, customer reviews and client testimonials.

Knowing that someone else from close to home has walked in your shoes through the entire process from start to finish and is now living in their new home is some testament.

This touches on the experience of the immigration lawyer handling your case, so it’s always good to ask a few questions during your initial consultation:

  1. “How long have you been an immigration lawyer?”
  2. “Are you focussed on a specific area of immigration law?”
  3. “Do you have any recent experience working with {insert nationality} for pushing through applications for the {insert subclass} visa?

Pay careful attention to how well they claim to know what the situation is like where you’re from and what your options are — often there are more ways than one to skin a cat in the immigration game. 

If they’re worth their salt, they will certainly have the level of experience that you are looking for, and some may even be able to speak your native language — Aejis also serves native Mandarin and Cantonese speakers.

It is always easier if there is a good cultural fit and understanding between you and your solicitor so they completely understand the subtleties of your situation.

6. Immigration Lawyer Fees in Australia: Do You Know What You’re Being Billed For?

Like with most professional advice in life, buying cheap is buying expensive.

That’s not to say that you’re going to have a terrible experience with a lawyer who is more affordable in your eyes, but bad advice can be way more costly than that extra bit you could pay to get it done right the first time.

You wouldn’t entrust such an important task with just anybody, but when the price seems a little too good to be true/too lofty, then you really need to be asking yourself whether the quote you’ve been provided with is fair and accurate:

  • Do you actually know what the associated immigration lawyer fees are? 
  • How is the bill worked out? Is it time-based or a fixed fee?
  • What type of payment terms can you expect? Is it an initial advance deposit in their trust account or once the work has been completed?

Everyone’s situation is different so there will be variables that will drive the costs up or down, and it is important for you to identify what those “hidden” costs might be.

A good immigration lawyer will be completely transparent with regards to costs from the outset and work with you to come to an accord that is agreeable to both parties involved.

7. Do They Genuinely Care About Your Situation?

Price sensitivity will always be a motivating factor of whether or not you choose to work with a particular service provider, but when that is all said and done, the most important thing is how they make you feel about the entire process.

Immigration and the thought of leaving everything behind can be stressful to say the least and downright scary to say the most. 

Having an established rapport with your immigration lawyer early on is invaluable. 

Sure, they need to exercise their technical chops to explain everything to you in a manner that you can understand, but if they do not truly understand your unique situation, issues you’re facing, your fears and worries then it can be a potentially bumpy ride.

Quite often this will be a gut feeling or sixth sense that you get about a particular person, but if you think clearly about their responsiveness, their candidness and willingness to help you from the outset then you’ll end up with a good immigration lawyer that can guide you through each and every single step of your migration journey.

Ready To Start Your Own Migration Journey?

Hopefully you now have a solid list of considerations to mull over when taking the first steps to your new life in Australia.

If you can find someone that is a registered specialist in their field that is as honest as they are responsive, has the professional experience you’re looking for and that, ultimately, you get along with, well then you’ve found your immigration lawyer.

Aejis Migration’s team of immigration lawyers and registered migration agents offers a free visa check for anyone that is unsure of where to start or what subclass is most suitable for them

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