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Do You Need a Registered Migration Agent


Do It Yourself Visa applications versus professionally managed visa applications from a Registered Migration Agent


Australia has a great system (Registered Migration Agents and MARA) in place to ensure that only qualified people (ie a Registered Migration Agent or RMA) give advice on immigration matters. That means visas to Australia and Citizenship applications. It also means you don’t have to fumble through on your own and possibly make some horrible mistakes.

NOTE: This is ESPECIALLY important in 2024 when they are trying to reduce the number of those who abuse the system, and where they have become really unforgiving with new visa applications when a tourist visa has been refused before.

This system involves:


  • Tertiary (University) qualifications for Registered Migration Agents, ie post-graduate studies in Australian Migration Law
  • Adherence to a Code of Conduct for Migration Agents
  • Assurance that the Migration Agent isn’t an undischarged bankrupt
  • Assurance that the Migration Agent doesn’t have a criminal record
  • Assurance that the Migration Agent has an up-to-date professional library of law and is always updated with the current laws
  • Assurance that the Migration Agent does annual Continued Professional Studies
  • Supervision and investigation of complaints by the Migration Agents Registration Authority


What it means is that you are dealing with a professional who knows his stuff. It means you don’t have to worry about being scammed by a fly-by-nighter or an opportunist who’s willing to “experiment” on you and your future happiness.

And most importantly it means you deal with someone who understands your situation and can tell you honestly and exactly what can be done for you. 

And know what? They can and WILL also tell you when your expectations are wrong! And this is my main message to you today.


My Migration Agent told me I’m wrong. What do I do?


This happens! It happens more than you could ever imagine! (See what come of our clients have to say HERE)

Let me give you some examples when a client does an assessment (ie one of our free visa assessment forms, which is the starting point!): 


  • Client says “She is still married, but I’ll marry her because the man ran off 5 years ago and they don’t know where he is….”
  • Client says “We’re in a de facto relationship. We spent a week in a hotel, and another week in a resort on another trip. I send her money through Western Union, and we use WhatsApp all the time.”
  • Client says “We haven’t met in person and it’s impossible to meet because I work all the time, but we want a partner visa”
  • Client says “I don’t think it’s right that they can force us to marry. We will marry when WE decide to!”
  • Client says “She wants to bring her 36 year old daughter with her on the partner visa”
  • Client says “She wants to bring her mother so she can take care of our kids”


These examples? ALL WRONG! Cannot work! Sorry if these sound like something you may have said in a visa assessment or an email to me. Not laughing at anyone. Why would you know otherwise? It’s not your area of expertise, is it? Well, fortunately it IS ours!


Australian Migration Law – Not especially flexible


See above! The understatement of the year!

Each Australian visa has an entry in Law. The Migration Regulations (1994). An Act of Commonwealth Law. Each visa has a Class and a Subclass, and a whole string of Regulations that  say: 


  • What will make them grant you a visa, and
  • What will make them refuse you a visa


Tick the “boxes”? Get a visa. Don’t tick the “boxes”? No visa. All designed to ensure a level of universal fairness to all applicants, and to remove the possibility of individual bias on the behalf of the Case Officer. And there are no negotiations! We can’t pass on your complaints or objections and expect them to change their minds! And refusals are permanent too, unless you want to wait years for the AAT (Administrative Affairs Tribunal) to possibly overturn the decision.


Examples of the above:


  • Clients worry if an age-gap between the couple will prevent them from getting a visa. Well? There is nothing written in law that says “Must be less than 10 years age-gap”. It’s not addressed at all. Therefore they cannot refuse a visa based on a 97 year old marrying a 19 year old! (Please, don’t send me a 97 year old with a 19 year old bride! Please!)
  • Client says “Can’t meet because I work every day…..or have kids to take care of…..or elderly mum to take care of”. I know. I understand. I sympathise. But unless the nice men in Canberra change the law, you cannot apply for a partner visa. It’s written into the law! It was written in many years ago in response to visas being granted for arranged marriages when the couple hadn’t even met.
  • And we get requests to bring nephews and nieces to Australia regularly. Had one recently where I could well and truly understand why on compassionate grounds the couple wanted to bring a niece to Australia as she was facing certain neglect. Of course I understand! I have a house full of kids here in the Philippines that we raise in a loving and responsible manner…..more so than they previously experienced. Of course I understand it. But basically there is nothing in the law to allow someone to bring a child to Australia which is not their own child by birth or by adoption. No Niece or Nephew Visa. And adoption in Philippines is the scariest can-of-worms which will take you years.

NOTE: Some Regulations have provisions for waivers, especially when exceptional circumstances occur which are compelling and compassionate. Some Regulations have none whatsoever! Some Regulations allow the Minister to personally override the Regulation. Others? Can’t be done! eg even the Minister can’t grant a partner visa to a couple who have not met yet.


Will you accept guidance and occasional bad news?


I really hope you will. It gets frustrating for us when someone comes to Down Under Visa all hopeful and with the very best of intentions, but their plan is all wrong! 

You made a decision and you’ve come to me….often with a misunderstanding of how Registered Migration Agents work……and said “This is what I want!” And I turn around and tell you that it simply won’t work. 

You don’t like it! Obviously! Well, I don’t like it either. Instant spanner-in-the-works. Some people are stuck in such a bind that nothing short of a miracle will allow them to be together. Others, they have years of legal struggle ahead of them and logistical issues that will involve a lot of traveling back and forth. I feel very sorry for a lot of people! 

But you know what would make me even sorrier? Teling someone “Yes it can be done!” when in fact it can’t. Setting a client up for failure? No, sorry. No “yes men” here!


So, no miracles! No backdoor schemes! What CAN Down Under Visa do for you?


We as Migration Agents can do amazing things…..all within the law and within the realms of possibility! 

The name is Jeff Harvie, Registered Migration Agent! Not Mary Poppins! No magic bags and no chimney sweeps to call on! No, I could be named Mr Blunt. I tell you how it is, even if it’s not what you want to hear.


But what types of things can we do?


Separated Filipina Ladies


Ladies who are still legally married, but separated. There is no “no fault” divorce here. No divorce at all. Only annulments, which are complex and take time and money. 12 months is a speedy annulment. 2 years or more, this is far more common.

So we do steer ladies to getting started on annulments, and many a client sees this through and eventually they apply for a partner visa, marry, and live happily ever after. 

In other cases? Annulments are taking too long, or the couple simply doesn’t want to wait. If we can establish that you have a genuine de facto relationship, then we will do so. If you need guidance and “fine tuning”, we can do this too. We have a lot of experience in this area. NOT quick, and NOT for the lazy! But it works!


Can’t meet in person


Now, there are couples who haven’t met in person yet. Can we get visas for them? No we can’t, sorry. But we won’t lie to you about it. We will tell you that you need to wait, and THAT is the kindest thing we could do under these circumstances.


Custody Issues for Single Mothers


We understand how the local laws work in the Philippines in regard to custody of children for single mothers, and can and do explain your case to the Department for you.


Health and Character Issues


Medical issues can lead to visa refusals. Character issues (ie criminal records) for both applicants and sponsors can lead to visa refusals. If you get stuck with any of these issues, we can prepare waiver applications as well as full appeals to the Administrative Affairs Tribunal if things go badly. 


Visa applications in general


Visa applications…..even straight-forward applications where you tick all the boxes in your assessment….they are anything but simple and easy. (Read here if you still believe in the existence of a “simple visa application“!) There’s an art and a science to putting together the right information in the right way that makes a Departmental Case Officer believe and accept that you do meet the Regulations for your visa Subclass. For couples, that includes showing them that your relationship is committed and genuine.


Visa from the Philippines! Why Down Under Visa and not someone else?


You have something wrong with your girl parts? You see a gynecologist, right? Heart? Cardiologist! Eyes? Ophthalmologist! A SPECIALIST!

Need a visa for your sweetheart from the Philippines to Australia? Need a Partner Visa from the Philippines to Australia for her (or him)? Tourist Visa? Child Visa? Citizenship By Descent? Do you see the “General Practitioner” who generally does Student Visas from India, or Work Visas from the UK? Or do you want a specialist?

Not knocking anyone, but a true professional admits when they are out of their league or just out of their comfort zone. Me? Never done a student visa ever! Last work visa I did was maybe 13 years ago, and I’m out of touch. I could probably refresh myself and do a passable job, but wouldn’t it be more professional AND kind of me to pass you on to someone who does these every day? Another specialist?

Well, WE do Partner Visas and Tourist Visas to Australia from the Philippines every single day! Child Visas and Citizenship By Descent applications are less common, but we still do them every month and have done all of this for 15 years! At least 150 Partner Visa applications every year and 250 or more Tourist Visa applications! So it’s fairly obvious that we must be capable of doing them right, and probably better than anyone else!


We’ve helped literally thousands of couples over the years. Yes, sometimes the road has been hard for all concerned, however we see our clients through to the end. We see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we steer them toward that light. At the end? They’re usually amazed that it happened? Us? Not at all! We knew all along!


NB. This is an edited and updated posting from an earlier article. Please enjoy!



Free online visa assessment form from Down Under Visa



Jeff Harvie is a Registered Migration Agent from Australia, but resident in Philippines since 2010 with his Filipina wife Mila and large extended family. Experienced with the Philippines culture, cross-cultural relationships and bureaucracy as well as Australian visas and Australian Migration Law, he writes with authority and fortunately with enough informality and humour that the average Aussie gets it! Down Under Visa specialises in visas for Australians in relationships with ladies and gents from Philippines, Thailand, China and Vietnam. Read MORE


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