The biggest cause of error in migration law and practice is missing time limits. Time limits in migration law are unforgiving, rarely is there any discretion to extend time. To help eliminate error multiple diary systems should be used including an electronic diary system.  Time limits should be recorded on the front of files with different colour thick felt pens.

Don’t ever commit statutory time limits to memory, always check the time limits in the Migration Act or Regulations before marking the deadlines in the file and the diaries.  Train all staff (including non-professional staff) in time limits.

Missing time limits is a cause of complaints to MARA.  One example is S v MARA [2007] AATA 1245 (20 April 2007), where the agent missed a Part-5 reviewable decision time limit by one day. By itself the missing of the time limit did not cause the agent’s suspension but it added to the weight of the case against the agent.

The Code of Conduct has a specific reference to meeting time limits:

2.18      A registered migration agent must act in a timely manner if the client has provided all the necessary information and documentation in time for statutory deadlines. For example, in most circumstances an application under the Migration Act or Migration Regulations must be submitted before a person's visa ceases to be in effect.

Make sure that you have a system in place for recording:

·         when you receive a notice or letter or from the Department which requires a response under one of these provisions,

·         the date on which you advised the client of the requirement, and

·         the date on which the response is due

·         the date you forwarded the response

The writer maintains multiple methods of recording the same time limit (paper diary, electronic diary – 2 forms, ACT and Google Calendar and then in a one page file called ‘Briefcoversheet’).

Barbara Davidson