We Filipinos belong to one of the fastest growing migrant communities in Australia (the fifth largest, actually). Filipinos now amount to 1.0 percent of Australia’s total population and given what we know about Filipino culture, you can be sure that a big chunk of those migrants are comprised of families.
Here on the iRemit blog, migration is a topic that we often cover, and we’ve written several posts on how to go about it. But today, we will discuss two of the most popular options for Filipino migrants to Australia: applying on your own or through a migration agency.
If you are one of the millions considering migration to Australia and are wondering if you should go it alone or enlist further help, you can read on to help you decide better:
Migrating On Your Own
What You Need to Do
Whether as an individual or as a family, there are five basic steps to migrating:
Determine the right kind of visa for you.
There are about 40 kinds of visa’s available to anyone who wishes to avail of a permanent residency in Australia.
If you get stuck, you can use this tool to find which visa is best suited for you, but the most popular ones can be had through a family-based permanent residency (where a spouse or a parent can petition for you) or a work-based permanent residency (if an Australian employer sponsors you or if you possess certain skills that are valued or needed in Australia).
See if you are eligible for the visa you have chosen.
The official website of the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Patrol (DIBP) ought to have the eligibility requirements for the type of visa you’ve decided on.
Applying for a visa, whether as an individual or as a family, can be costly and time-consuming so make sure you are fully eligible for one.
You can also view the complete assessments for the many different kinds of visas here.
Apply for your visa.
Once you have established your eligibility, gather all the requirements (e.g., bank statements, medical/dental records for everyone in the family, etc.), and submit them along with the appropriate application fee/s.
IMPORTANT: Your application has to be complete before you submit it, otherwise you risk delays or outright rejection.
Wait for the final decision.
It could take weeks or months, depending on how much work the DIBP has and how complete your requirements were.
If and when your application is approved, get your visa.
If you get to this point, congratulations! You are now free to live and work in Australia permanently (or at least, for the next five years as per the mandated renewal period), and in some cases, you may even be eligible for citizenship.
How Much It Will Cost
This would depend on the sort of visa you avail of. General skilled migration visas for individuals range from AUD370 (Php12,846) for skilled regional workers to AUD 3600 (around Php125,000) for skilled independent workers. Bringing in an additional applicant under this kind of work visa ranges from AUD95 (Php3,300) to AUD900 (Php31,250) if the latter is under 18 years old while the price goes up to AUD185 (Php6,423) to AUD1800 (Php62,500) if the additional applicant is past that age.
For people who are bringing in a spouse or a child (partner or child migration), the fees are AUD 6,865 (Php238,359) and AUD 2,370 (Php82,288), respectively.
One advantage of applying on your own is that the Internet makes it relatively easy to do so, provided that you are migrating as an individual. You can research on the many different kinds of visas you need through official government websites, and you can also browse a few of the personal blogs out there that detail the experience of migrating.
If you are quite experienced with applying for various travel documents (e.g., visas, travel permits, etc.), handling the migration process on your own shouldn’t take too much of a stretch (given that you don’t have any outstanding debts or criminal records, of course).
Applying on your own is also easier on the wallet, as you’ll see later on, and you can even do it online.
However, applying without assistance can also be frustrating and confusing simply because there’s just too much information out there. Newbie applicants may very well be overwhelmed by all of it.
Trying to migrate the entire family on your own can be very challenging too, as there are so many visa classes that could apply to each member, and the more family members are involved, the more time-consuming the process tends to get. And if you’re up against a deadline, that can’t be good.
There’s also no way for you to get personalized guidance or individualized advice from the Australian embassy or migration bureau in case you want to ensure that your application is complete or correct prior to submission if you are applying on your own.
Hiring a Migration Agency
Registered and certified Australian migration agents or agencies exist for three main reasons: 1.) To provide you with specialized advice on matters of immigration, 2.) represent you in dealings with the DIBP, and 3.) to assist you in preparing your application.
What You Need to Do
Shop around for the right migration agency.
There are quite a few agents or agencies out there that are equipped to assist you with the process. If you have friends or family who used a migration agency to go abroad in the past, you can ask them for referrals. Otherwise, you can check the official website of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) to look for one.
While you are free to choose who represents you, do make sure that your agency of choice is duly registered and accredited by the pertinent government bodies.
Once you’ve chosen an agency, set up a preliminary meeting with them to discuss your needs and expectations.
Generally, the agency should be able to give you an honest assessment of your chances for migrating as well as present you with a complete quotation for how much their services would cost, along with any application components (e.g., translation or medical expenses) that might entail additional expenses.
You also need to be very clear and honest about your situation at the preliminary meeting. If there are things in your background that may make the process more challenging (e.g., a previous criminal record, etc.), you need to let your agent know at the onset.
If you’re satisfied with the terms of service and the package price quoted, you can go ahead and enter into an official agreement with your chosen migration agency.
Their duties to you will be as follows:
a.) Advising you on what visa best suits yours or your family out of the many options out there;
b.) Checking if your documents are complete and correct (and accompanied with the correct fees) to make sure that they are suitable for submission;
c.) Answering your questions and concerns about immigration law complexities that may apply to your case;
d.) Filing your application and liaising with the Australian government on your behalf;
e.) Monitoring the process of your application and updating you accordingly;
f.) Applying for ministerial intervention (if appropriate) and representing you in a tribunal hearing in case your application is denied;
g.) Providing any other subsequent services as your case requires.
How Much It Will Cost
The fees charged by migration agencies vary depending on certain factors, such as the ease or difficulty of your case, the level of experience and expertise the agency has, as well as the size of the agency itself (running a larger agency is considerably costlier than maintaining a smaller one).
Information on the MARA website, however, shows the following range of agent fees for certain permanent visas as of December 2015:
Child migration: AUD1,100 (Php38,200) – AUD3,300 (Php114,579)
General skilled migration: AUD1,500 (Php52,081) – AUD4,400 (Php152,772)
Parent migration: AUD1,500 (Php52,081) – AUD3,800 (Php131,940)
Partner migration: AUD400 (Php13,888) – AUD4,000 (Php138,883)
For further information on visa fees for the other classes or types, you can check here. Do note that these fees do not include the ones you need to pay the Australian government when you apply for each visa.
Perhaps your biggest advantage in hiring a migration agency is your access to their expertise. It might be your first time to file an application to migrate, but doing so is second nature to them, so their assistance can spare you a great deal of time, effort, and frustration.
They are also best equipped to assess your chances of successfully migrating and can advise you on what you can do to improve these, if possible. And since they can and will go over your application before they submit it on your behalf, you can rest assured that you are turning in an application that will put you and your loved ones in the most favorable light.
Conversely, the biggest drawback to hiring a migration agency is cost. You will, after all, be paying for premium service honed through years of hard-won experience.
No migration agency can assure you 100% that your application will be approved (it’s illegal for them to claim otherwise), but that goes for independent applications too. Ultimately, you still need to do your part in securing your own documents and improving your own chances of success, regardless of which option you choose.