With dream holidays postponed, international studies delayed, and business plans modified until Australia’s international borders reopen – you might think it’s been a quiet year for migration agents.

Tourist, student, and employer-sponsored visa applications are down, and passports and suitcases are stowed away, waiting for circumstances to change. But international border closures have created a new set of challenges for migration agents, who are working hard to navigate the uncertainty and secure futures for their clients.

We caught up with two industry professionals to gain their perspectives on the current state of migration.

Partners are getting serious & some visitors are unable to return home

Simon Long, who completed the Graduate Diploma in Migration Law at VU and established a migration law company SeekVisa with four classmates four years ago, gives an overview of the onshore and offshore activity and explains some of the new challenges.

“The demand for student and employer-sponsored visas has dropped, but there are still a lot of people who need migration law advice. People are thinking carefully about their relationships and futures and we're seeing more partner visa applications than we usually would. The standard processing time for an offshore partner visa is around one to two years, so travel restrictions due to COVID-19 aren’t coming in to play yet.

"We are also working with people to apply for new visitor visas to stay in Australia until they can return home. In normal circumstances, it can be difficult to meet genuine temporary entrant criteria on a new visitor visa onshore. But at the moment, many people can’t return to their home country because of border restrictions, or they are unable to secure a connecting flight home – so these factors are now being considered.

"We’ve also worked with people to lodge applications for the new 408 ‘Government Event’ visa which allows individuals to remain in work in Australia, in critical sectors, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It has been a challenging time. Because of the speed it’s all happened, we are interpreting the conditions of these new visas and waivers without being able to refer to case precedents. We are very careful to manage expectations and make our clients aware of any potential risks and propose a course of action which is appropriate to their circumstances and finances.

"Although a trying time for everyone, because of a good response to the global crisis from our State and Federal Governments, Australia is still a desirable destination to live, work and study. Once the pandemic has passed, we are all hopeful for a slingshot effect out the other side.”

Simon Long, Senior Migration Consultant and VU alumnus

A spike in Temporary Graduate Visa enquiries & changing perceptions of the industry

Arnab Ghosh Roy also completed a Graduate Diploma in Migration Law at VU and is now completing a Bachelor of Laws at VU, while working at a migration law practice. Arnab shares an update from his practice.

“We have seen a big spike in enquiries for 485 visas. People are booking phone and video consultations to understand their position and gain advice on how they can optimise their ability to work at a time when many businesses are closed or not operating at full capacity.

"We are also having many general consultation sessions for onshore visa applications. Clients want to get advice on what is going to change and what their options are. The offshore side of the business is a bit slow but there are more partner visas.”

Arnab shares his journey from student to advocate and some of the challenges and opportunities created by COVID.

“As a student starting out in migration law, I created an online study group that connects migration law students and alumni from a wide range of universities with industry, both in Australia and abroad. I am now the Chair of the AMLGSA, which represents migration law students across six universities and provides advocacy to government and connections to industry.

"I’m now progressing with my law degree, so that in the future I will be able to advise, not only on immigration matters, but also appear in court and advise on adjacent legal issues, like employment, family and criminal matters. The VU Block Model’s single-unit timetable allows me to work while I study.

"For migration agents, the biggest change in recent years has been the introduction of the Migration Capstone. It is improving the standard of all migration agents’ knowledge base and improving perceptions of the ethical standards of the industry. For many students at the moment, the cost is a barrier due to the financial impact of COVID, and we’re negotiating with the College of Law to secure a waiver or at least a reduction in fees.

"It is a good time to be studying migration law, because, as well as migration agent work, migration law knowledge is now needed in a broad range of areas including HR, policy departments, embassies and international development.”

Arnab Roy, Migration Law grad

Arnab Ghosh Roy, VU law student and Chair of the Australian Migration Law Graduates Student Association (AMLGSA)

Thinking about studying migration law at VU?

VU has been teaching Migration Law for more than 25 years and was ranked in the top 4 universities in Australia by Times Higher Education (THE) for delivering on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in the area of peace and justice.

We are Australia’s leading migration law education provider, with the longest-running program nationwide. The Graduate Diploma in Migration Law is designed for prospective migration agents, legal practitioners, HR migration specialists and government workers to build on their knowledge and become registered migration agents.

All delivery for the Graduate Diploma in Migration Law is currently online and available to residents of all States and Territories. By completing the Graduate Diploma in Migration Law – in approximately 10 months – and the prescribed external capstone exam, you will meet the knowledge requirements for registration as a migration agent with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA) and be ready for a rewarding career in migration law.