Chang and Migration Agents Registration Authority  AATA 235 (22 April 2014)
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has upheld a decision to cancel the registration of a migration agent operating in Chinatown after it was found that he was retaining up to 50 per cent of tuition fees paid by students.
Former agent Mr Jackie Chang was found to have committed ‘serious breaches’ of the Migration Agents Code of Conduct (the Code) and not to be a fit and proper person to give immigration advice.
Mr Chang was operating ‘Chinatown Migration and Education Services’ in Sydney, providing international students with ‘free’ immigration advice and putting them in touch with various colleges in Sydney. He did not disclose that various agreements with colleges and Chinese consulting services meant that he retained up to 50 per cent of tuition fees, or around $8000 per student, described as an ‘inordinate’ amount in the AAT decision.
AAT Deputy President Handley’s decision focused on the conflict of interest that arose between Mr Chang’s personal financial interest and his obligation to provide financial advice to students.
“The students were vulnerable, some were under 18, they had limited knowledge of English and of Australia and its education system, and were reliant on Mr Chang,” Handley said in his decision.
Handley also ruled that the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) was correct in its finding that Mr Chang was not a fit and proper person to practice. MARA cancelled the registration in August 2012 as a result of 13 breaches of the Code.
“There needs to be a clear message that such conduct is not acceptable in order to deter Mr Chang and others from engaging in similar conduct and to ensure that public confidence is maintained.”
Mr Handley described the imposed sanctions as protective rather than punitive.
“If Australia is to attract international students to study here, it is imperative that the student’s interests should be properly protected.”