Sunday, November 10, 2019

Things You Need to Know About Agents

If you are planning to come to Australia on student visa, there is a big chance that you have spoken to, or at least have considered speaking to, an agent. If you haven't been in touch with one yet, you are probably wondering which one you should approach, if you ever need one.

What are agents?

In a brief chat with an overseas Filipino worker in the Middle East, it occurred to me that some have the notion that an agent, or an agency, assisting prospective students coming to Australia provides similar services as a manpower agency. That is not the case. When talking about coming to Australia as a student, an agent can be one of two or both:

an education agent or a person working for an agency representing an education provider in Australia and/or providing services to help secure admission as a student in an education provider in Australia, OR

an immigration agent or a person working for an immigration agency.

Education agents or consultants advise you on what course to take, given your circumstances, i.e., age, educational background, work history and career goals. They are those who help process your application for admission in an education provider, e.g. registered training organization, school, college, academy, institute, university, etc. They also provide assistance in the visa application process, albeit supposedly limited to clerical matters only.

Education agents may or may not be immigration agents themselves. They may or may not have a partner immigration agent or agency.

Photo by Marily Torres from Pexels

Meanwhile, immigration agents are those appropriately trained and skilled in matters involving Australian immigration laws, regulations, directions, policies and procedures. In Australia, only registered migration agents can legally provide advise on visa matters.

Some Points to Consider

The services of education agents and counselors are usually free, but some will ask for a fee. Those who offer their services for free earn through the commission they receive from the education provider. It is unethical for agents to refer students only to education providers with which they have an existing agreement. Watch out for noticeable bias of agents insisting on certain education providers.

(Click here for unbiased advise from an independent education counselor)

There is no required qualification for education agents, but it is generally accepted in the industry that education agents are at least a Qualified Education Agent Counselor (QEAC) listed in the Professional International Education Resources (PIER) Online database. On the other hand, migration agents should be registered with the MARA or the Migration Agents Registration Authority.

(Click here for advise from a Qualified Education Agent Counselor)

A legitimate education counselor is someone who constitutes a solo business or is working for a business registered as such in the regulatory authority having jurisdiction on the place where it operates. In the Philippines, this will include all requisite registrations and permits, from SEC, DTI, BIR, BFP and LGU down to the barangay. In Australia, an Australian Business Number is a verifiable information which identifies a legitimate business. Migration agents are legitimate only if they are registered with the MARA.

(Click here to explore your options with a legitimate education counselor)

What to Watch Out For

Watch out for agents who are representing themselves as migration agents but they are not listed in the MARA database. (Click here to search the MARA database) Note that even people who work for or under the direction of a MARA registered agent are not supposed to advise on any visa matter.

Watch out for education agents who claim to have a MARA-registered agent with them or have one as their partner, they will usually ask for fees to cover the costs of advice from a MARA agent. The services of a migration agent is not free, so you may need to clarify early on how much the additional fee you will need to pay when a MARA agent is involved.

Watch out for education agents who advise you about life in Australia when they have not even been to any part of Australia yet. The low barrier to entry for education agency in Australia has led to the proliferation of agents who has not even set foot on Australia and give you advise merely on what they have read.

(Click here for advise from an education counselor who has experienced life in Australia both as student as subsequently as an immigrant)

Do you need an agent?

Finally, the question may be whether or not you need an education agent. The answer is, IT DEPENDS ON YOU. If you are confident about doing the process by yourself, by all means do it yourself. If you are not confident enough, an agent will be useful. If you will have dependents coming with you and the circumstances are complicated, it is best to have an agent. If it is straightforward and you can manage, so be it. Ultimately, no one can advise if you really need an agent or not. It all depends on you.

(Click here for free advise from a QEAC education counselor)    

5:54 AMEditorial Staff