A Filipino Marriage Celebrant acting as an ‘unregistered’ Migration Agent in Australia.

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A Filipino Marriage Celebrant acting as an ‘unregistered’ Migration Agent in Australia.


 

Let’s get this very clear.

Under the Migration Act 1958, it is against the law for an individual in Australia, who is not a registered migration agent with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority, to provide immigration assistance.

Just this morning a woman arrived for a scheduled meeting with me and within 10 minutes I was able to establish the following ‘unregistered’ activities regarding a particular Filipino marriage celebrant in Sydney Australia who also organised and instructed the woman to pay for a partner visa application in Australia for lodgement in the Philippines.

Here are the salient points to this unfortunate incident

  • She originally arrived in Australia as a tourist and had no intention of overstaying.
  • She did, however, had to endure an abusive and violent relationship with her husband in the Philippines and had separated from him already at that stage.
  • She met a caring and compassionate Australian who got to know her and they eventually lived together for over 2.5 years and this is why she ended up overstaying.
  • They decided that she needed to apply for an annulment in the Philippines which ended up ‘being processed illegally’and was never processed properly or annotated on her NSO Marriage Certificate (The solicitor acting for her in the Philippines was later apprehended by agents of the National Bureau of Investigations (NBI), as many other individuals had been earlier victimized by the solicitor)
  • They then approached a Filipino Marriage Celebrant in Sydney and showed the ‘bogus’ court order showing their annulment and requested if they could be married at Births Deaths and marriages (BD&M) in NSW and for him to perform the ceremony.
  • The marriage celebrant then ‘offered to assist them’ with their migration application from the Philippines to Australia as he ‘knew everything about the process’ and said would only charge them $1,500 dollar as they had already used their other services earlier. They paid in CASH. No receipt was ever issued.
  • The marriage celebrant then instruct her on Nov. 2014 to pay for her,visa application charge (VAC), her 15 year old daughter’s (VAC) and her other two son’s aged 24 and 27 (VAC) who were already working full-time to DIBP whilst she was still in Sydney.
  • She was then given all the ‘filled in forms’she needed to lodge by the marriage celebrant and instructed her to return to the Philippines and await a second annulment application before she could lodge her spouse visa application.
  • During our meeting this morning it now appears that her second annulment application was ‘fraudulently’ lodged by the second solicitor in the Philippines and she is confused about the consequences on this development as well.
  • She is now asking for my advice on the matter and how she and at least her 15 year old daughter can be re-united with her loving and caring de facto partner back in Australia.

Using ‘unregistered migration agents’ could leave you at risk of being given incorrect or misleading advice, as what has happened in this case. Also, as you will not have the benefit of consumer protection, an unregistered agent might take your money without providing an adequate service or even any service at all.

When approached by someone claiming to be a migration agent, be careful if:

  1. you are asked to pay upfront in cash only, and no receipt is provided
  2. the fee seems extremely high or extremely low
  3. the ‘agent’ does not give you a contract or statement of services and fees
  4. no office address is given and you are asked to meet at a café, pub or other public area
  5. only a post office box or mobile phone number is provided
  6. no Migration Agents Registration Number (MARN) is advertised – check with Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority if an agent is registered.

Remember, it is easy for illegal operators to copy a real website or build one that looks professional – when searching for a registered migration agent, use the link provided on the Register of Migration Agents. https://www.mara.gov.au/search-the-register-of-migration-agents/.

Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority

If you know of someone who is involved in migration fraud, is operating illegally as an unregistered migration agent, or if you are a victim of migration fraud, report it to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection through their Immigration Dob-in Service at http://www.immi.gov.au/Help/Pages/immigration-dob-in-service.aspx#.

Immigration dob-in service

The Immigration dob-in service only collects information relevant for the investigation of matters relating to Australian immigration and citizenship law and fraud against the department.

There are several ways you can make a report to the Dob-in Service, including online report, telephone, fax, post and in person.

The online report is the most efficient way for you to make a report to the Dob-in Service.

Regardless of the contact method you decide to use, all reports received by us are recorded and actioned. Therefore, it is unnecessary for you to repeat your report through different communication channels.

March 31, 2015