If you are a migration agent, you provide services to clients that will be incredibly important. Your clients will trust you to achieve the best possible outcome and to have an in-depth knowledge of the industry. Before undertaking any services for a client, whether that be a visa application or a strategy consultation, you should have your client sign your client agreement. This ensures that both parties are on the same page and minimises the risk of a dispute happening later on. This article will explore a number of items that should be covered in your client agreement, some of which are staples in any industry and others that are particular to the migration space.
Scope of Services
Your client agreement should clearly articulate the services you will be providing as a migration agent. Whether this is general consulting, strategy meetings, report writing, or visa applications, ensure the description of your services is well-defined. If you are applying for a visa on your client's behalf, be sure to include the name of the visa you will be applying for.
Within the scope of your services, you might also state that you will advise your client of their options based on the information they provide to you. Additionally, you may agree to keep your client updated on the progress of their application, particularly as visa applications can take many years.
As a migration agent, you will need to provide, or provide access to, the:
- OMARA Consumer Guide; and
- MARA Code of Conduct.
Your clients will also want to see warranties from you, that you will provide the services with care and skill and in accordance with all relevant laws, including migration regulations.
Your Client's Responsibilities
While you are providing services under your client agreement, much of the services you provide will be dependent on your client's input. Your client will need to provide you with accurate information within the timeframes you need it. Your client may need to:
- be responsive;
- provide you with true and correct information that you request; and
- notify you of personal matters that may affect their application, for instance, if they plan to sell their property or leave their employment.
Your client agreement should contain a clause where your client agrees that you may not be able to perform the services if they do not meet their obligations.
It is crucial to clearly set out how you structure your fees and payment terms. This is so that both parties are aware of the arrangement before entering into the agreement. Will you charge a flat fee for your services or an hourly rate? As a migration agent, there will be a number of expenses that you pay for your client, including:
- fees to apply for visas;
- fees to apply to tribunals if necessary, including the Administrative Appeals Tribunal;
- possible fees for tests your client may need to undergo, including medical tests or skills tests;
- if necessary, any fees for engaging interpreters and translations of documents; and
- any other fees such as government charges and taxes.
You may hold money in an account to pay disbursements. Therefore, your client agreement should include authorisation from your client to pay for disbursements using the cash in that account. You will need to keep records of transactions that take place in and out of the account.
Confidential Information and Privacy
In the course of providing services to your client, they are going to need to provide you with confidential information and personal information. You may also share some confidential information with your client. Your client agreement should outline each party's confidentiality and privacy obligations. In particular, your client will want to be assured that you will only use and disclose their information in order to provide the services or, if otherwise required by law.
As a service provider, there will be a number of factors outside of your control or for which you cannot take responsibility. It will be useful to exclude responsibility for:
- any actions by your client, for example, their delay in providing you with documents or their provision of incorrect information;
- any actions by third parties, for instance, any delays by the department of immigration in processing a visa; and
- the outcome of a visa application.
You will also need to limit your liability, whether to a certain amount of money or to reperforming the services. Your lawyer can advise on an appropriate liability cap.
Term and Termination
Your client agreement needs to outline how long the arrangement will continue:
- whether for a fixed period of time; or
- until you have deemed the services to be complete.
It will also need to outline how either party can terminate the agreement early.
For instance, your client may have breached the agreement by intentionally providing incorrect information to you. Therefore, you may decide it is no longer feasible to work with them. Your client agreement should outline how many days notice you need to provide to terminate the agreement.
The termination clause must address what happens upon termination. Usually, payment would be made for services rendered, and the migration agent would stop performing services. The agreement would also need to specify what happens for any in-progress services, such as visa applications.
The services you provide as a migration agent are going to be incredibly important for your client. Before you begin performing services for clients, ensure that you have a well-drafted client agreement in place which outlines each party's responsibilities and limits your liability to the extent possible.