Filipinos can be found in varied professions, advocacies, interest groups and volunteer organisations. They are greatly admired and appreciated as evidenced by video messages shared in the social media highlighting the great contributions that they make in the countries they serve ie the Middle East, UK, USA, Canada and many other places.
One profession that has gained more Filipino practitioners over the years is that of being a Migration Agent. Recently, postings by a Migration Agent in social media expressed great joy for her client family over the success of an appeal case to allow the family to continue residing in Australia.
The Pinay Migration Agent is none other than Kai Cruz, of IMMICO. Thirty three year old Kai of Sydney is a single mother of a son with special needs. From being a Nurse in an Accident & Emergency Department of a hospital, she switched roles four years ago to become a Migration Agent.
To gain an insight into the preparation to become a Migration Agent and what does the role entails, as well as give information on the process of dealing with appeals, we are glad to share with our readers the responses of Kai to some questions.
What is the process to become a Migration Agent?
During my time, if I can remember it correctly, when I put an application to study Graduate diploma in Australian Migration Law and Practice, I was asked for my Bachelor’s degree certificate, previous postgraduate degree, sit for an English test and meet the professional level of English.
Then once we were doing the course, it was actually any other degree which is totally a new language to learn, after completing all the units, we sat for a 3-day exam. I remember mine was at Wynyard. I was very anxious as everyone during the exam had brought their suitcase worth of references. I brought just my bag with a few important notes, confidence and a lot of prayers to God. Luckily, I did pass and got my registration to practice as a Registered Migration Agent.
Basically, an Australian Migration agent is the only authorised person to give any form of migration advice to anyone, they can also represent a person to any matters with the Department of Home Affairs or the Australian Appeals Tribunal Migration Refugee Division. Aside from these, they are authorised to process any visa applications in behalf of their client.
What do you enjoy most being a MA? on the flip side, what challenges have you faced and overcome as a MA?
I am actually on my 4th year as a Migration agent, and I must say that I enjoy the continuous learning in the interesting world of migration. I also enjoy being of help to so many people that were taken advantage of by other people in the migration industry, just by listening to their stories, and making them feel that you truly care gives them peace and ease in their worries.
This is something that you can’t get from any jobs that I have done before, truly contributing to my self-fulfilment. Although, to be honest, it is a hard job, everyday challenges, very erratic, you just don’t know what to expect with visa applications, meeting deadlines, attending to the increasing volume of clients with high expectations of our service.
What I did when I was adjusting and trying cope with the demand of being a migration agent, I prayed to God and asked him for guidance, for wisdom and strength, that if He wants me to be His instrument and stay in the Migration industry, make me stronger and wiser. I feel that God is my true boss and I work for his company and he can be a tough boss sometimes as he gives me challenges to figure out on my own, but in the end as long as you don’t quit it, you always end up with a positive outcome, weather a positive learning experience or a contributing success to other people's lives.
When did you establish your Migration Agency company? what encouraged or inspired you to be in that field?
I started ImmiCo Consultancy in year 2017. I was also working full-time as an Emergency Department Registered Nurse at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. I have observed that after working my shift, I would not have the energy to still be a mother to my newborn that time. But I cannot quit my job as I needed to pay for mortgage and living expenses that time, so I slowly transitioned. I went to the office before or after my shift in the Emergency, regardless whether I have a client or not in the office. I made a commitment and has already imagined myself that this will be my new life.
In my previous office, I did set up a small desk as well for my son, so my plan was to be the migration agent that I can be while being the best mother to my son. I remember the first time I went to my school partner, I was professionally dressed but pushing a pram, I knew it was not widely acceptable yet and sometimes people still think that you cannot provide your quality service as you might be busy attending to your child’s needs. I created ImmiCo with the vision of my son in mind, without ImmiCo I would not be able to be the best mum to my child right now, ImmiCo helps me attend to his needs financially, emotionally and physically.
What is the process undertaken by a migration agent for an appeal case? How long does it take to conclude an appeal case?
An appeal case involves an unfavourable decision made by the Department of Home Affairs that you do believe should have been positive. An example is a refusal for a visa application and the visa applicants are onshore, meaning they are currently in Australia. Once a decision has been made by the Department of Home Affairs, the refusal letter will inform you that you are eligible to make an appeal within 28 days from the time you received the decision. You have to put an application with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) Migration Refugee Division, pay the fee and attach a submission and any supporting documents.
The AAT will review the application independently, and they can affirm, set aside or remit the decision made by the officer acting as the delegates of the minister. A decision should normally be made within 18 months from application.
What was the nature of the appeal case that you have just won. How many people were in that case?
Recently, I have represented my client to a tribunal hearing case for an onshore student visa application with dependents that was refused on the grounds that the officer of the Department of officers was not convinced that the student intends to genuinely stay in Australia temporarily. So it was a very hard decision for me to first accept and second to inform my client and the dependents involved.
Although I do not have any experience with tribunal appeals, I chose that path and submitted our application for review and requested for a hearing before a decision can be made. I knew that just by having a voice and the opportunity to be heard our last plea would be warranted as ‘we did our best’. So God-willingly, we won the case. I can never thank God, I knew from the beginning it was all his works, I was just being directed by him and I just follow orders. I never felt the happiest when we won the case.
What did it mean to you to win this case? Is this your first successful appeal case since you started your company here?
Winning this case for me is not just about achieving career growth as a migration agent, but it was more on giving my clients the peace that finally they are no longer in a grey area of their lives. That they no longer need to feel the uncertainty and fear, and that they can finally keep going with their journey in life without the heaviness in their hearts.
If you are able to make changes, what would you like to be done differently in the area of Migration Agent? and what have you done in the past which you would like to change?
I have so many negative experiences before when I was starting my career as a migration agent. But looking back, I do not think I would be the migration agent I am today if I have not gone through those painful experiences, whether dealing with clients or dealing with the Department of Home Affairs. Those were expected as I was fairly new in the industry.
I learned the hard way and I will still choose to go through those paths as before as I can see that I have advanced my level of understanding and expertise in the Australian migration law. But I am still in the process of coming up a strategy of how I can attend to the growing number of clients without sacrificing the quality of our service. I make sure that I will go through and speak to each and every client and truly you can only do so much in a day, with the help of my admin team, online software, online booking system and the patience of my clients, we are slowly getting on top of this issue.
What advice would you give kababayans who might be interested in becoming a MA but are hesitating to pursue it?
The advice that I can give fellow Filipinos is that, do not choose to be a migration agent for the money. Rather choose to be a migration agent as you believe that you contribute your knowledge and expertise to people undergoing migration issues and visa applications.
You have to love what you do, you have make sure that you find joy in helping others, I always feel that every time we receive an outcome of a visa application, I feel that is my own visa application. I want to share as much as I can what Australia has provided me, an opportunity to be the best version of myself and I want to give it back not only to the Filipino people but to the rest of the people in the world who aspire to have that opportunity in Australia.
What impact did COVID 19 have on your business?
During the start of COVID, I must admit that I got scared as the border lockdown and travel restrictions will target the industry that I am in right now. However, because like what I said, God is my boss, I did rest all my worries on him, I still continued working from home, offering free consultation to all seeking advise with their visas. I have also offered 50% off from my service fee and also offered free student visa application processing which is like $2000 off. We also did give away sacks of rice to our clients to make sure that no one will go hungry during this tough time.
I must admit I was scared when I did all these as I do have a child of my own to look after, but I prayed to God and told him that I will share whatever I have left but please look after me and my family in this trying times.
After a couple of months working from home, we went back to the office and I was shocked that we became so busy that we never felt that there was even a pandemic. We gain local popularity in the Filipino community in Sydney as well as clients who found us on Google search. Again, thanks to my Big boss up there who never failed to look after me.
Lastly, how do you define success?
Success for me is not measured by how much money or material things you have. Success is being able to have contributed whatever God-given gifts or talents you have for the betterment of the community.
Thank you and again, at ImmiCo Consultancy, we believe that ‘Your Success is our Success’
ABOUT KAI CRUZ
Kaila's mother hails from Legazpi, Bicol while her father is from Malolos, Bulacan. Kaila is the only girl and came fourth of five children. She was born in Quezon City but spent most of her life in Sta Ana, Manila before coming to Australia.
She completed Bachelor of Science in Nursing in the Far Eastern University. Once in Australia, she studied Certificate 3 of Ageing Support at TAFE Shellharbour. This was her first course in Australia back in 2011. After that she took up Masters in Nursing in University of Wollongong in 2012.
She was a Registered Nurse in the Philippines when she first came to Australia and completed her bridging program for overseas trained nurses in Melbourne, thereby getting her Australian Registration as well
In July 2017, she completed her Graduate Diploma in Australian Migration Law and Practice at Griffiths University and is currently on her first year at the University of Technology Sydney, studying Masters of Law, Juris Doctor. Now, although she is still an Australian Registered Nurse, she focuses more on her career as an Australian Registered Migration agent of ImmiCo Consultancy.
Kaila's inspiration in what she does these days is her son Gordy, aged 4 years. She believes that he is truly a gift as he was born by natural way on her birthday. She is a special mother combining her passion to serve the community as a Migration Agent and being devoted to her son.