Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Australian immigration lawyers are registered to practise by individual Australian state and territory regulatory bodies. If you know the state or territory in which you wish to live, it is best to engage an immigration lawyer from that state or territory as they will be better placed to provide specific advice relevant to that state or territory. It may also be easier for you to see them in person. You can find lawyers by checking the register maintained by the law societies in each Australian state and territory, and some registers will enable you to narrow your search to lawyers who provide ‘migration’ or ‘immigration advice’.
Alternatively, you may wish to contact the law society in a particular state or territory for assistance in finding an immigration lawyer or firm which suits your needs. You may wish to narrow your search by asking whether that lawyer specialises in the field of migration law relevant to your situation. Most firms or lawyers maintain websites which detail the area(s) of law in which they specialise. You can also contact a firm or lawyer directly, and ask whether they specialise in the particular area of immigration law you require, or if not, whether they can refer you to another immigration lawyer who does.
The Law Society of New South Wales, Queensland Law Society, Law Society of South Australia, and the Law Institute of Victoria operate a specialist accreditation in immigration law, and the registers in those states will indicate which lawyers have been accredited under that scheme.
For many people, the idea of navigating through Australia’s complex immigration laws, policies and procedures is daunting, and there are inherent risks of misunderstanding what is required. Engaging an immigration lawyer as a trusted adviser will give you the comfort you need as you undertake your migration journey. Plus, the skills and expertise they bring to the task will ensure that your case is handled in the most cost-effective and speedy manner.
Immigration lawyers are obliged to charge costs that are no more than what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances. This takes into account their skill and experience, the scope and complexity of work to be performed, and the time taken to perform that work. Prior to undertaking any work, an immigration lawyer will disclose the basis upon which they calculate their legal costs and provide you with an opportunity to negotiate such costs.
Some states or territories have firms or community legal centres that can provide free or low-cost legal advice, or you may be able to apply for legal aid if you satisfy certain criteria. Again, the law societies in each state or territory can help connect you with such firms or services.
The appropriate steps to take may depend on your circumstances, but in general, the first steps to start the migration process include:
- considering which visa options and pathways are suitable for your circumstances – the Department of Home Affairs website provides a portal through which you might wish to explore visa options;
- finding an immigration lawyer to assist, using the suggested process set out above (‘How do I find the right migration lawyer for me?’);
- obtaining legal advice from an immigration lawyer about your best possible visa option or pathway as well as the costs and timeframe involved and next steps to take; and
- if you decide to proceed with an application, obtaining the relevant information and documents that need to be lodged with your application, and then either lodging that application or instructing your immigration lawyer to do so on your behalf.
Migrating to Australia can be confusing and clients often seek legal advice about their visa options and whether they might be eligible for permanent residence and ultimately Australian citizenship. An immigration lawyer will be able to assess your circumstances to advise you about the types of visas that may suit you. In many cases, you may have a range of visa options and your immigration lawyer will help you select the best possible visa considering a range of factors including the prospects of application approval, cost, processing times, work rights and whether you can readily make further applications to extend your stay in Australia.
Migrating to Australia requires planning and commitment. An immigration lawyer has the expertise and qualifications to assist you with planning for the big move by helping you select and apply for a visa, and can assist in managing your expectations at the outset. The Department of Home Affairs provides some helpful guidance about visa application processing times on its website.
Importantly, immigration lawyers can help expedite and simplify the visa application process by:
- assisting you with the lodgement of a complete application with the Department of Home Affairs;
- anticipating and promptly responding to Departmental requests for additional information; and
- ensuring that only relevant additional information from external agencies, particularly in relation to health, character, and national security requirements, is provided to the Department of Home Affairs.
Moving to Australia does not come without a financial cost. It is worth consulting an immigration lawyer about the costs involved with any visa application. Typically, these costs will be made up of the lawyer’s own fees together with the visa application charges. Depending upon the visa type that you apply for, additional costs may be incurred as part of the application process such as health checks, police clearances, skills assessments, and English language proficiency tests. It is also important to know that some visas require a visa applicant to demonstrate that they possess, or have access to, a certain amount of funds before the visa can be granted. An immigration lawyer will advise you about these costs and any visa financial requirements at the outset so that you can make an informed migration decision and arrange your financial affairs accordingly.
In most cases, you will need to have a consultation with an immigration lawyer before you can engage them. A first or initial consultation allows the lawyer to find out important information about your situation and assess the right pathway for you. Everyone is unique and migration law is complex so it can be difficult to judge what path you should take without having a meeting first. After the meeting, your immigration lawyer will tell you if they can help you with a particular visa process or migration matter and will give you a quote for their services. If you want to proceed, they will give you an agreement to sign which covers all details of the service they will provide you and the associated fees and charges.
Exactly what happens at your first consultation will depend on the nature of your inquiry. Usually, an immigration lawyer will ask you questions about your situation and what you are looking for so that they can work out what the best way is to help you achieve your goals. They may discuss different visa options with you, explain why certain visa pathways may not be appropriate, or help you create a visa strategy to aim for eligibility for a particular type of visa.
Some immigration lawyers will ask you to email some initial information and documents before your consultation, while others will ask you to bring those documents to the office. If you are asked to email information and documents, it is best to do so as soon as possible so that your lawyer has time to read them and do any necessary research before your consultation. You should ensure you provide any important letters about your previous visas (such as grant notices, refusal notices, or Administrative Appeals Tribunal letters) along with a copy of your passport ID page. If you are looking at skilled visa options, you should provide a resume which fully details your qualifications and work history.
What your immigration lawyer needs most is for you to be open and honest, both about your situation and about your goals for the future. Immigration lawyers are bound by very strict confidentiality laws so anything you share with an immigration lawyer will stay between you and the lawyer in all but very limited circumstances. The best way to help a lawyer help you is to give accurate and complete answers to questions and to ask about anything you are unsure or worried about.