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Migration lawyers and migration agents

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End of dual regulation for migration lawyers

Lawyers who provide migration legal advice and services and who hold current practising certificates will no longer be registered migration agents – or eligible for registration – following the passage of the Federal Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) Act 2020.  

From 22 March, 2021 the following changes apply

In order to provide migration legal services to the public you need to hold:

  • a principal practising certificate; 
  • a barrister’s practising certificate; or 
  • an employee practising certificate, working for a law practice.

If you already hold one of these practising certificates you can renew your practising certificate as per the usual process.  You don’t need to do anything else. 

You must be able to satisfy the skills and expertise requirements of a principal before you will be granted a principal practising certificate. Find out more about becoming a principal here

If you currently hold a government or corporate practising certificate you will need to apply to vary your practising certificate to one listed above in order to continue to provide migration legal services to clients after March 2021.  

Trust money is money entrusted to a law practice in the course of, or in connection with, legal services provided by that practice. This includes money received in advance of providing the service. If you are providing legal migration advice and are receiving money in advance of your services, this is considered trust money. In order to receive trust money you must hold:

  • a principal practising certificate with trust authorisation;
  • an employee practising certificate with trust authorisation and work for a law practice where there is at least one principal holding a practising certificate with trust authorisation. 

If you do not have a practising certificate with trust authorisation, you will need to apply to vary your practising certificate and open a trust account before you can accept trust money from clients. 

You must be able to satisfy the skills and expertise requirements required for trust authorisation. You can find out more about getting trust authorisation and opening a trust account.

If you want to work as a registered migration agent, you must surrender your practising certificate.

You cannot engage in legal services without a practising certificate so you will only be able to provide migration advice as a registered migration agent.

Frequently asked questions

If you are providing legal migration advice you are subject to the same requirements as all lawyers. This means you need to provide costs disclosure to your clients before you provide any services.

You can find out more information about costs disclosure on our website.

You must be able to satisfy the skills and expertise requirements to hold a principal practising certificate. A straightforward way to demonstrate you have the skills and expertise to hold a principal practising certificate is by completing a practice management course.  If you are unable to complete the practice management course (PMC) before 22 March, 2021 we may grant you a Principal Practising Certificate on the condition that you complete the PMC within three months of getting your certificate. This can be discussed on a case by case basis, so please use the lawyer enquiry form to speak to a member of our team if you can’t complete the course in time.

If you work for a non-legal entity

No, not after 22 March, 2021. You will need to vary your practising certificate to a principal practising certificate.

If you work for a law practice

Yes, but you will need to hold an employee practising certificate.

The Law Institute of Victoria runs the trust account course in Victoria. You can do this course online at any time. For more information visit the LIV’s website

In Victoria the practice management course is currently provided by the Law Institute of Victoria, Leo Cussen and the College of Law.

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