This blog was not written by ChatGPT.

‘Applying for a visa is no piece of cake: Why you should engage an immigration lawyer’ is our immigration blog article with the most clicks (and continues to be popular). This was surprising as I thought people would want to read more technical visa information. On further reflection, however, it actually does make sense why people want to know, above everything else, whether or not they should be engaging a lawyer (or migration agent).  

Engaging an expert is the starting point of the visa journey. Knowing whether you should pay a lawyer money to guide you through what can for some individuals be a life-altering experience is an important decision to make.  As consumer confidence has been shaken over the years from the many stories that have emerged of bad lawyers and migration agents giving poor-quality advice and putting clients in jeopardy, professionals like myself have had to substantiate our abilities.

For this reason, I thought I would follow my last article with a Part 2.  Now that 2024 marks my 20th year working in Australian migration, I can impart greater wisdom and an even stronger case as to why you should consider engaging a good immigration lawyer:

  • Diagnosing the problem: 

Within an initial consultation and asking the right questions, I can diagnose a client’s ultimate end goal, the hurdles that lie before them, and the visa options that may lie ahead.  Sometimes this visa pathway is linear, with a direct end result of permanent residency.  On other occasions, this pathway may curve and require a client to pursue a number of temporary visa options before they can arrive at the final destination.  This is the expert viewpoint, that is, an understanding of the bigger picture and foreseeing what type of monetary investment could be involved to migrate to Australia.  

  • Putting you on a sustainable visa pathway

I cannot tell you the countless times I have been told by a client that they spoke to friends or family, who suggested that they pursue a particular visa pathway because it worked for them. Only to find out after a visa refusal that this advice was ill-informed and their personal circumstances did not align with the visa requirements. 

In many instances, there is no ‘quick fix it’ visa that will grant you permanent residency to Australia. Many individuals engineer a situation to create such a pathway, but with the global order changing towards tougher migration policies and strong border protection, governments are closing gaps to ensure that individuals cannot submit nonsensical visa applications anymore.

Hence, the right approach is building upon your current and unique personal situation.  By this meaning, understanding whether there is a need to complete additional studies or gain more work experience or seek support from your Australian spouse, to open up more visa options and opportunities (as examples).  This is what a migration lawyer can guide you through, and this approach is certainly more sustainable than choosing a different career path or falsifying stories for the sake of securing a visa, as this has adverse future consequences. 

  • Not everything is on the website

Migration is a dynamic area of law.  It changes weekly and sometimes without notice, the government releases impactful policies that are not published immediately on the Department’s website.  A good migration lawyer is on the pulse of these changes and understands the practical issues of running a visa case and is aware of those invisible issues that cannot be found on websites.  

Engaging M Legal Group at the beginning of your migration journey means you will receive our migration newsletters. More importantly, we will always keep your case in mind over the term of your migration journey that may span many years.  We will reach out to you (or you can ask us questions) if there is a migration law or policy that is beneficial or detrimental to your migration situation.   

If you found this article useful, give us a call and book your consultation with M Legal today!

The Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) is a governing body who evaluates applications of interest by foreign persons to invest or buy a home in Australia. This process is done in accordance with the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act (1975).

The government regulates foreign investment to ensure that the investment is beneficial to Australia.

Who does not need FIRB approval? 

  1. Australian and New Zealand citizens
  2. Australian permanent residents
  3. Temporary residents who purchase property as ‘joint tenants’ with an Australian or New Zealand citizen spouse or an Australian permanent residence spouse
  4. Foreign persons who purchase property as ‘joint tenants’ with an Australian or New Zealand citizen spouse or an Australian permanent residence spouse

If you fall into any of these categories:

  • You are able to purchase a new property, established property or vacant land
  • If it is a new property or vacant land, you can live in the property or the property can be an investment. If it is an established property, you will need to use it as your principal place of residence. 

Who needs FIRB approval and what are the conditions?

  1. All temporary residents require FIRB approval.

Temporary residents include (but are not limited to):

  • All temporary visa holders (regardless of the visa period length) e.g., student visa holders, temporary graduate visa holders.
  • Those who are residing in Australia and have submitted an application for a permanent resident visa and is awaiting the outcome of this application.

Temporary residents can purchase one established dwelling which must be used to live in. If you cease to live in this property, then you are required to sell it.

A temporary resident is also able to purchase new dwellings, vacant land and/or established dwellings for redevelopment. This can be purchased alongside the established dwelling (that is used as their primary place of residence). There is no restriction on how many new dwellings are purchased as long as they are approved by the FIRB.

  • All foreign investors require FIRB approval

Foreign persons are able to purchase an investment property but it must be a new property or vacant land on which a new property will be built.

Foreign persons are typically prohibited from buying established properties in Australia. There are some exemptions to this including:

  • If an application to redevelop an established dwelling proves that it will genuinely expand Australia’s housing stock.
  • If it is a property you have inherited
  • If it is awarded by a court order
  • If the property was awarded as part of a divorce settlement

Please refer to the government website linked here for more details.

How to get FIRB approval:

You can apply for FIRB approval directly through the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website. The instructions to apply for a residential real estate application are linked here.

The ATO charges an application fee for all FIRB applications. This fee is dependent on the property value.

Every matter is unique and has its own nuances. As such, it is best you read the FIRB’s guidance notes and contact the ATO for any further questions:

Written by Priscilla (and edited by Sofia Maniam)

For the last two years, migrant movement into Australia has changed dramatically in light of COVID.  The Department of Home Affairs, Australia’s government agency in charge of migration, has executed constrain strategies that has altered the migration program to now reflect the following:


  • Only essential workers/high skilled workers and returning nationals can travel through borders.
  • Onerous quarantining for incoming passengers which is expensive and stifling business travel.
  • Processing visa for offshore international students has come to a halt.
  • Implemented quick fix-it solutions like the COVID subclass 408 visa to assist stranded migrants living in Australia.
  • Relaxing visa conditions for onshore students/working holiday makers so they can work in  COVID affected industries.
  • Stronger border closure has added an extra layer of requirements to enter and exit (i.e., travel exemptions), only adding to the anxiety of traveling in and out of the country.
  • Tourism is non-existent.
  • The General Skilled Migration program is partially operating and is unlikely to return to pre-COVID planning levels for many years.
  • World-event driven visa concessions are being given to groups of people that need refuge (e.g., Hong Kong and Afghan nationals).

Many neighboring countries continue to grapple with high COVID infections rates daily.  This, coupled with the uneven distribution of vaccines, means that countries, including Australia, will be reticent to open their borders too early in fear that their own public health systems will be overwhelmed. 

Australia has the advantage of being a borderless country and benefited from a hardened approach to border closure.  However, this will have to come to an end soon.  The full impact of this is still unknown, but what we do know is that it has had long lasting negative effects on families who have been separated, debilitated businesses and excluded migrants and Australians who are stranded overseas.


Australian migration has always been dynamic in nature but COVID has been an unprecedented event that has shifted the entire paradigm of migration policy making forever.  It is likely that public health will now underpin decisions on ‘who’ gets a visa and ‘who’ will be disqualified from entering the country.

In navigating this uncharted territory, M Legal’s lawyers believe that having the foresight to be able to spot trends will improve advice to clients and an ability plan for their futures. 

In future gazing, we have identified a number of themes that we see as shaping Australian migration over the next few years (and some may even remain in place for the long-term):

1.       Can’t travel spontaneously

It is an evident reality that travelling cannot be as straightforward as it once was. Specifically, individuals will now need to consider pre and post departure requirements that are involved with travel. This includes the necessity of being vaccinated, being tested prior to departure and upon arrival, and having to quarantine. 

We are expecting that some of these measures will continue to be in place for the long haul and will become accepted as the normal travel routine.

2.       Travel Bubbles

Travel bubbles are being created through bi-lateral arrangements formed by governments, such as Australia and New Zealand, facilitating easier travelling.  Over the coming months, Australia will be creating more of these bubbles with ‘low-risk’ countries that have high vaccination rates as a way of easing back into international travel.

3.      Vaccination Passports (Digital)

Vaccine passports (and/or certifications) are an option that many countries are considering to adopt, if not have already adopted.  Australia is one of these countries, with various states such as New South Wales and Victoria opting to implement this strategy. Vaccine passports will be the universal stamp of approval that aims to verify whether you can travel.  However, it may be a little while before the system can be trusted as governments figure out how to iron-out kinks like data privacy and security.

4.  Some restrictions remain

Governments will continue to encourage COVID etiquette such as the use of masks and social distancing, to minimise the risk of outbreaks in Australia.  We expect that the messaging around this etiquette will relax only when Australia hits its vaccination targets in due course. 

5. Reduced quotas

The pandemic has had significant impacts on migration with the Net Overseas Migration forecasting that there would be a substantial drop in migration levels to such an extent that it would be negative.  Accordingly, Australia will become even more selective, favouring individuals who will accelerate the process of the economic recovery by placing greater value on higher education levels and entrepreneurial abilities.

 6.       Stricter visa regimes

The pandemic has only intensified the difficulties in securing visas globally.  It has also cemented in many people’s view, which countries are likely to take care of its citizens during a global crisis and lead through a pandemic well.  In an effort to monitor migrant numbers, the regulatory visa framework is only likely to tighten further, making it more challenging for migrants to find a visa pathway over the coming years.

7.       Longer processing timeframes

Visa processing timeframes for applications will be lengthier.  For this reason, it will be paramount to understand how to expedite applications and be across the right short term and long term strategies to set the right expectations and work towards your migration goals.


M Legal takes into account the big picture so if you found this article useful, give us a call to book your consultation.

Co-written by Sofia Maniam and Priscilla Shibu