Lawyers vs Agents

Lawyers are registered with their relevant state’s Law Society and will have a ‘Legal Practitioner Number’ (LPN) provided to them by the Department of Immigration. Depending on where they qualified, Lawyers have completed a three or four year law degree and have been to law school for at least a year to qualify.

As part of their law degree, Lawyers in Australia must also study Administrative Law and Procedure, which is the kind of law that governs the activities of government agencies, like the Department of Immigration/Home Affairs.

Lawyers can claim legal professional privilege over their communications or documents with clients which can be used to circumvent disclosure obligations imposed on non-lawyers. This can be useful if those communications and/or documents contain information that may be detrimental to a client’s case.

Lawyers can represent clients who appeal to the Federal Circuit Court, the Family Court, the Federal Court and the High Court of Australia.

They have been trained in advocacy, legal writing, legal research and how to draft and structure legal arguments, which skills may come in useful for difficult matters needing to be addressed with the Department of Immigration/Home Affairs.

Lawyers usually have a broader scope of expertise. If your visa requires you to consider employment issues or, for example, you’re on a partner visa but going through a separation or divorce, a lawyer may be able to advise you on these issues as they relate to your immigration matter. They will at least have a more in-depth awareness of the broader legal issues involved and be able to refer you to lawyer who practices in that area, to give you complementary advice. I often work in collaboration with criminal lawyers and family lawyers to achieve the desired immigration outcome.

Migration Agents are registered with the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA) and are able to provide advice regarding visa eligibility as well as lodge visa applications, correspond with the Department of Immigration/Home Affairs and appeal visa refusals and cancellations in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

In terms of training/education, Migration Agents usually complete a 12 to 24 month course in migration law and then sit an exam. Unless a Migration Agent is also, or used to be, a lawyer, they may not have a law degree and may not have been to law school. They have likely not studied Administrative Law and Procedure which is the kind of law that governs the activities of government agencies in Australia, like the Department of Immigration/Home Affairs. You should check whether they have been trained in advocacy, legal writing and/or legal research and how to draft and structure legal arguments, which skills may come in useful for difficult matters needing to be addressed with the Department of Immigration/Home Affairs.

Importantly, because Migration Agents are not lawyers, they cannot claim legal professional privilege over their communications with clients and documents which means they may have to disclose them to authorities if required by law. This can be problematic if that information or those documents are detrimental to a client’s case.

Migration Agents cannot represent clients who appeal to the Federal Circuit Court, the Family Court, the Federal Court or the High Court of Australia.

Generally, people hire professionals or other service providers for one or more of three main reasons; they are:

  • knowledge/skill poor (i.e., they don’t have the required knowledge or skill set to do what needs to be done);
  • time poor (i.e., even if they do have the required knowledge and skill set, they don’t have the time to dedicate to the task); and/or
  • motivation poor (i.e., even if they do have the knowledge, skill set and time, they just don’t want to do it; complex matters can be overwhelming and cause action paralysis and sometimes you’re just happy to hire someone to do it for you!)

During our initial consultation, we will touch on the above and, if I believe you have the knowledge/ability to manage your matter by yourself, I will tell you so that you’re not incurring expenses you may not want/need to.

However, I will also discuss the benefits of hiring a lawyer, especially if your matter is contentious, involves a visa cancellation or other serious immigration issue or there is any other complexity that increases the risk of an unfavourable outcome in your case. There are over 140 subclasses of Australian visa and understanding your options, collating supporting documentation, negotiating with government bodies, analysing eligibility requirements, actioning esoteric legal issues and making complex decisions can quickly become overwhelming.

Yes! Lawyers can work on any kind of matter, be it a straightforward visa application or a litigated, protracted matter before the courts.


Following our initial consultation (which is charged separately as a fixed amount) you will decide whether you want to retain me to provide you with legal advice throughout the process, help you prepare and lodge your visa application/manage your immigration issue and deal with any questions/issues raised by the Department of Immigration. I will provide an estimate of how much I anticipate this will cost. Depending on your situation, we will agree an amount that you will transfer into Wren Legal’s Trust Account. This is an account that holds your money until I have worked for the amount of time required to be paid that amount. Once I reach that, I will transfer the money in the trust account to Wren Legal’s Business Account. If there is still more work to be done or you only paid a portion of the original estimated amount, I will request you transfer the next instalment to the trust account so that I can continue work and so on. If you transfer an amount into trust for a certain amount of time (e.g., you pay me for 10 hours’ worth of work) but your matter only takes me 8 hours, I will refund you the two hours’ worth of fees that I did not use. This is the benefit of paying by time taken, not on a fixed fee basis.

An initial consultation, including written advice following our telephone call, is $550.00 + GST.

It’s actually not that much. In order to provide you with considered and accurate legal advice on which you can rely, I need to spend about an hour on the phone discussing your situation with you, including your short and long term goals, any concerns you may have, you budget and any complicating factors. As part of the initial consultation and after we’ve spoken, I spend time reviewing your particular circumstances, where necessary, against current legislation and case law and drafting an advice to you. I believe it’s important that you have my advice in writing, so you can take your time to understand your situation and options and have something to refer back to. Sometimes there’s more than one option and making a decision on how to proceed can involve complex considerations that involve you and maybe your family or business.

That whole process usually takes me between three and five hours. My normal hourly rate is $400+GST, so the $550 initial consultation fee is excellent value. It’s important to me to provide this preliminary step at a reduced rate, so that you don’t over invest at this stage and have access to quality legal advice that enables you to make the best decision on how to proceed. However, I also have to charge for it in order for me to be able to spend the amount of time required to provide you with professional and accurate advice and not just ‘generic’ advice that may miss important details or change considerably over time.

If you wish to limit your initial consultation to one hour on the phone and do not wish to receive advice in writing, the cost is $350 +GST. However, I do not recommend this for the reasons outlined above.

An initial consultation, (up to an hour discussing your matter on the phone) plus written advice confirming your situation, advising on your options and my professional view as to the best way to proceed following, is $550.00 + GST. To read more about the initial consultation fee and what’s included, click here.

I do not work on a ‘fixed fee’ basis. This is for a few reasons, being: (1) I don’t know exactly how much time it will take to prepare your visa application/advise on your matter or what complications may become apparent along the way so it is impossible to know exactly how much time and therefore, cost it will take; and (2) if I work on a fixed fee basis and the time it takes is less than I anticipated, you will end up paying more than you would have paying by the hour.


  • We will arrange a time to have an initial consultation and you will send me an identification document (like driver’s licence or passport) so that I can open a file for you.
  • You will transfer the cost of the initial consultation ($550) into the Trust Account (prior to our appointment).
  • We will the discuss your matter over the phone, for up to one hour, during which you will tell me your situation and I will obtain any information from you, that I need to form a view on how to proceed.
  • After our initial consultation, I will review your options and provide you with initial advice in writing and take a view as to how I recommend you proceed. This advice will include: (1) a written estimate of how much I believe it will cost for you to retain me to assist you from the inception of your matter until a specified landmark (e.g., lodgement of your visa application); and (2) a summary of other costs e.g., the fee charged by the Department of Immigration to lodge your application.
  • You will decide if you wish to retain my services and, if so, I will send you a retainer agreement and an invoice for the first part/an agreed amount of your legal fees to be transferred to our Trust Account.
  • Once you have returned the signed retainer agreement and paid your deposit, we’ll get started!
  • If you’re matter involves me lodging an application with the Department of Immigration, I will require the Department of Immigration’s fee to be paid into our Trust Account at some point before I lodge the application or for you to provide me with your credit card details so that you can pay it directly. We can discuss this during the process.
  • We then wait to hear back from the Department of Immigration and, if further work is required, I will provide an updated estimate of costs and we’ll go from there.

No. If you retain me to manage your immigration matter, I will not share your online Department of Immigration account with you. Whilst I am acting for you, I am legally responsible to you for the management of your application or matter. To mitigate the risk of something being changed or said that could undermine your prospects of success, I must be the only person who can access your account. If you wish to manage your immigration matter yourself at any time, you can advise me in writing and I will cease to act for you. Once you have paid any outstanding invoices for work already done, I will provide you with instructions on how to access your account online.

Absolutely! My clients are based all over the world, as well as in Australia. I consult over Skype or Zoom and we can also correspond via email.

Yes! If you’re already in Australia, you may require advice on a number of different issues, including but not limited to applying for a new/different visa, becoming a citizen, dealing with Notices of Intended Refusal or Cancellation of a visa due to criminal offences or other character issues, leaving an abusive relationship whilst on a partner visa, appealing against a decision of the Department of Immigration and a number of different immigration issues. I may also be able to assist you expediting your citizenship ceremony, confirming any dual citizenships you may or may not have, corresponding with the Department of Immigration generally and helping family members visit or move to Australia.

Yes. If you are confident that you can draft and lodge visa or citizenship application yourself, but would like my guidance on an ad-hoc basis or would like me to draft and/or review certain documents (e.g., statutory declarations) we can discuss this option during your initial consultation.


You may be eligible for more than one subclass of visa. I will discuss this with you in your initial consultation and, when I provide my written advice, take a view as to which is your best option in my professional opinion, taking into consideration your circumstances and goals.

In short, no. There is no such thing as ‘renewing’ your visa. If you do not have a ‘no further stay’ condition attached to the visa you’re currently on and depending on your other circumstances, you may be able to submit a new application for the same or a different subclass of visa. If you do have a ‘no further stay’ condition on your current visa, you may, in certain limited circumstances, be able to apply to have that condition waived. If not, you will have to leave Australia in order to submit an application for a new visa.

I don’t know. The Department of Immigration has estimated processing times relevant to each visa subclass on its website, however these are a guide only. That being said, the sooner I lodge your visa application, the sooner you will receive a decision and I work to lodge ‘decision ready’ applications (see below, under ‘When can I Travel to Australia?’)

That depends on what visa you have applied for and how long it takes to be decided. You cannot come to Australia (or remain in Australia) until/unless you have a valid visa. I manage my matters in a way that ensures we provide all relevant information to the Department of Immigration from inception, to avoid unnecessary questions or issues being raised. Whilst this may seem to be more work and take more time, submitting comprehensive, ‘decision ready’ applications can greatly increase the chance you will receive a relatively quick decision.

I’ve had a Nomination Application for a Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) Visa granted in four days (lodged on Monday 7 March, granted on Thursday 10 March).

It depends. There are provisions in Australian law that mean a visa will be refused (or, if you already have one, cancelled) if you have a substantial criminal record. This is a defined term so it’s important to get advice from an immigration lawyer, if you have any type of criminal history. Decision makers are also required to consider the ‘character test’ to determine whether to grant your visa or citizenship. The character test is set out in the Migration Act 1958 and involves complex considerations. Again, it is vital to obtain legal advice if you have any concerns in this respect.

No. Skills assessments are issued by relevant skills assessing authorities. A skills assessing authority is an organisation that checks that your skills meet the standards they set to work in a relevant occupation. Depending on your occupation, I may be able to assist you draft and collate documents in preparation for sending to the relevant skills assessing authority. However, this will be considered and agreed on a case-by-case basis.