For Malaysians and Singaporeans who want to migrate to Australia, here is my latest list of six things to watch out for.
1. Migration Agents Registration:
For most people who are seriously considering their prospect of migrating to Australia, they would go to a migration agent (based in Malaysia or Singapore). Before you even visit them, make sure you find out first if their name and company is being registered with the Australian Government Office of Migration Agent Registration Authority.
Visit their web site, and click on Find An Agent, type in their business name, Migration Agents Registration Number and the agent’s name and find out what is their current status. If the record says they are registered, that’s good. But if it says deregistered, it means they have failed to comply with certain standards required by the relevant authority.
Usually, if their record is clean, they will proudly tell you that they are registered with the Office of Migration Agent Registration and encourage you to visit www.mara.gov.au. Regardless they tell you or not, you should always go find out from that web site. But it does not follow that if they are legally compliant, they are ethically sound. You will have to find that out yourself.
2. Australian Immigration
This is the website that contains all the necessary information for anyone who wants to migrate to Australia. Even if you have appointed an agent to handle your Permanent Resident Visa application for you, you will be much better off to familiarise yourself with the overall Australian Migration Programme.
When you have an overall big picture view of the Australian Migration Programme, you will find it easier to discuss matters and possible options with your migration agent. For example, if you want to apply this year, you should know what plans the Australian Government have for their 2014-2015 period.
For example, in the web site, you will click on ‘media’ and then go to ‘fact sheets’ and get some very useful information as presented below:
With information as shown above, at least you will know which category you belong to and how many such visas will be given out the following year. You agent will also be less inclined to charge you a higher than necessary price because he knows you have done your homework yourself!
Understand that the migration agent is also constantly reading this government web site to keep themselves up-to-date with the latest legislative changes and all things related to Australia’s Migration Programme.
3. Buying Businesses
When buying a business in Australia, watch out for small businesses that are just slightly more than three to five years old. This is because the law here requires business sellers to show the past three years’ book keeping and financial statement records to potential buyers so that they can then make a more informed decision as to whether the asking price is justifiable or not.
The problem is that there are many small and medium business operators whose main income comes not from their daily business operations. For example, a café operator would start his café from scratch and then run it for three and a half year and then try to sell off his business to some cash rich and unsuspecting new migrant from China, Malaysia or Singapore – especially those who business migrants.
As you would have guessed by now, surely they will make sure their accounting books look as attractive as possible. How would they do it? They will make expenses as low as possible and make their profit as high as possible so that they will be able to sell for a higher price than would otherwise have been impossible.
4. Caution with the developer.
Fourth, be very careful with developers who mainly sell to the new migrant population and foreign buyers whose children are attending colleges and universities in Australia.
These property developers mainly employ staff with Asian backgrounds and have booths in shopping malls with a lot of Asian customers. Usually these apartments or condominiums are near university campuses and train stations. Local buyers would not normally buy such properties.
Would you buy an apartment next to a college campus in Malaysia or Singapore? Usually the answer is no unless you are interested in renting out to student tenants. Locals in Australia would not like that because they prefer working tenants (especially medical staff) rather than student tenants.
Another very common way these developers market themselves is through some educational seminar on how to invest in the Australian property market. Instead of training you and helping you learn about property investment, they will try to sell you their new developments.
I have a student who bought an apartment unit from one such agent at an above-average price and was greatly disappointed when he moved in four months later when the project is finally completed. Material used was substandard, space was limited and the possibility of making a profit will very minimal.
He even told me the only people he could sell to next time is to look for new migrants who do not know the market conditions here and preferably he or she does not much English as well. What a sad case. There is a big industry of business operators that prey mainly on new migrants and property developers are among them. Do not forget the café operators mentioned above as well.
5. Watch out for student agents:
If you come here on a student visa but your main objective is to eventually become a permanent resident, you might need to consult an agent on how to extend your student visa when it expires. Many students will have to change from one college to another if they want to continue staying in Australia.
So they seek help from student agents who supposedly will suggest they attend the right school to get the right qualification that will eventually help them get their permanent resident visa. But do not forget that such student agents do not really care if in the end you will get the PR or not.
All they focus on is get you enrol in the colleges or universities they represent so that they get their commission from them. It helps if they can also charge you a fee for giving you their advice.
This will help cover their business overheads such as their office rental and electricity bills. Do your own research. Do not rely on student agents to decide which college or universities you should attend.
6. Choose your business carefully:
I have a friend who bought a news agent business. He worked in that business for three years before he gave it up by selling it at a price that barely breaks even. In Malaysia he was a lawyer.
In this business he had to be at the premises every morning at 4am to collect the newspapers and had to stay till seven to complete his daily round of stock take and paper work. Very tedious, it is worse than working for someone. Now, he works for someone as an insurance underwriter. What is the moral of the story? Stick to your knitting.
That was the very reason why we had decided to not get involved with restaurant business in Australia. We have not done restaurant business before and do not want to risk our capital in unchartered waters. Of course, you call your shots. Nothing venture nothing gain. But I believe after a certain age, we have more to lose and less to gain if we do not have a realistic view of what our limitations are.
Meanwhile, there is a Singaporean man with a strong educational and journalistic background with the leading English paper in Singapore. He had observed that the English writing standards of student in Australian schools is appalling. So, he started a tuition centre mainly helping students improve their English writing skills and he is doing very well.
If you are already in the area of education in Malaysia or Singapore, I strongly recommend you to explore the tuition business in Australia. More and more parents are pushing their children to do well in school and government examinations.
They also want their kids to study in prestigious private schools and Ivy League Universities. So they need to prepare their kids to take the select school examinations in the hope that their kids will get full scholarship. In order to do well in select school exams, they will have to turn to tuition centres which specialise in grooming students to score in such exams and you will be surprised to know that these parents are very willing to pay for your services if they know you can do a good job.
This article is written by Ken Soong (co-author of Migrating to Australia Good Meh???, Buying a Residential Property in Australia: Eight Things You Should Know Before Doing It and Making It in Australia)