Rita’s family were forced to leave Australia after agent failed to lodge visa application on time

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jul10,2024
Key Points
  • Rita Borges and her family were forced to leave Australia after their migration agent failed to lodge their visa application on time.
  • The Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority can act on complaints if a registered migration agent has done something wrong.
  • The Department of Home Affairs received 299 complaints related to registered migration agents in 2022–23.
Rita Borges and her husband, Marco Cardoso, both from Lisbon, Portugal, dreamed of making Australia their home.
Instead, they were forced to leave the country after the migration agent they hired missed the deadline to submit the required visa documents.
The couple had been living in Perth with their young daughter for four years when they received a proposal for a sponsored visa from Cardoso’s work in 2018.
When the staff at Cardoso’s English school recommended the services of a particular migration agent, Borges said they felt “confident” as new migrants to heed the advice.

The couple say they promptly paid for the agent’s services and provided all the requested documents.

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After leaving Australia, Rita and her family returned to Portugal, and recently lived in Iceland. Credit: Supplied

A few months later, they received notification from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) that their visas had been denied.

We received an email informing us that our visa had been denied because the documents were submitted after the deadline.

Rita Borges

Borges said they sought out the agent, who “just disappeared”.
“Everything was ready, and we weren’t worried since she was the one responsible for applying for the visa and gathering the necessary documents,” Borges told SBS Portuguese.

With no answers forthcoming, Borges said they turned to migration lawyers and judicial processes to investigate the case, which took more than a year.

Not alone

During this time, the couple say they got to know other clients of the same agent who were in a similar situation.

The reported cases ended up being judged by the DHA, which cancelled the agent’s license in 2018.

However, Borges said any action came too late for her family.
Taking into account the fees for lawyers and other agents, as well as a new visa application, she said they accrued more than $12,000 in expenses.
The agent refunded only the initial $3,000 paid to her, but no further reimbursement was paid to the couple, according to Borges.
The couple and their daughter, who was seven years old at the time, were initially given 28 days’ notice to leave the country, but Borges said this was quickly reduced to just five days’ warning.

The family say they had to leave the country to apply for another visa, and when they returned to Portugal, the visa was again denied. They were banned from applying for any Australian visa for three years.

From Australia to New Zealand

Brazilian couple Newton and Núbia Santos are currently facing a similar situation in New Zealand, where they have lived for more than seven years.

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Newton (left) and Núbia, who have lived in New Zealand for more than seven years. Credit: Supplied

In 2021, the New Zealand government established a precedent for applying for residency for individuals who had lived and worked in the country for more than three years, including the pandemic period, known as the Residence Visa 2021 (RV2021).

Santos said this was the opportunity they had been eagerly awaiting, so they chose to pursue the visa process with the migration agency as they had used for their previous visas.

In August 2022, after the application deadline had passed, and after much insistence from the couple, the agent informed them that she had discovered that the application had never been submitted.
The agent claimed that she had fallen ill during the period and that this had affected her work. However, the couple claim that she was sick for only three weeks, and that they had been requesting a response from her for five months since they paid for the service in March 2022.
After two denials from the country’s Immigration Department, the couple was advised to initiate a public petition to request a review of their case.

Borges said the family’s case is being prepared for ministerial consideration, with their visas set to expire in September.

Steps to take in case of unlawful immigration assistance

Claudio Garzini has worked as a migration agent in Australia for more than six years.
He said individuals can report cases of agent misconduct to the , which can apply sanctions to the agent.

The affected person must file a complaint, (and) depending on the severity, the agent may lose their migration agent license.

Claudio Garzini, migration agent

Before making a complaint, the office trying to resolve the issue with the agent directly.
The office can act on a complaint if the agent has done something wrong, such as not doing what they agreed to do in their contract or breaching the code of conduct for registered migration agents.

According to the DHA, the office received 299 complaints related to registered migration agents in 2022–23, an increase from 252 in the previous financial year.

“Merit and jurisdiction were established for 130 complaints, and of these 14 were finalised with a finding that the agent had breached the Migration Agents Code of Conduct,” it said in its annual report.
Three migration agents had their registration cancelled.
“the penalty for providing unlawful immigration assistance can be up to 10 years imprisonment”.
Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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