Anne O’Donoghue is an accredited immigration law specialist and registered migration agent with over 27 years of experience. She is the director and principal lawyer of Immigration Solutions Lawyers (ISL). Anne has been listed in WWL: Corporate Immigration for 10 consecutive years. In January 2019, she was appointed a member of the IBA’s (International Bar Association) presidential task force on the refugee crisis initiative and also appointed as co-chair of of the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee of the IBA. She was the winner of the 2019 Lawyer’s Weekly Migration Partner of the Year Award and she achieved a high commendation for the NSW Law Society’s Presidents Medal (2019).
Describe your career to date.
I am the director and principal lawyer of Immigration Solutions Lawyers and have been assisting clients in navigating the different avenues of migration to Australia since 1993 by taking a very “hands-on” and collaborative approach with clients. I received my specialist accreditation in immigration law in 1998.
In 2019, I was appointed co-chair of the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee of the International Bar Association (IBA). As a co-chair, I have had the opportunity to broaden my international network and internalise the practice of immigration law. It has provided me with a global platform to receive input and updates about immigration law – not only those of my practising jurisdiction but also immigration laws and procedures of other jurisdictions.
I was the co-moderator of the IBA Presidential Taskforce Showcase session in Seoul on the topic of “The Creation of an International Refugee visa and a Model of Protection for Refugee and Migrant Children”. This showcase was highly successful as it brought together prominent immigration and human rights scholars and practitioners from across the globe, to bring about a synergistic response to the global crisis of failings in the protection of migrant and child refugees. In October 2019, I received a high commendation for the NSW Law Society’s Presidents Medal on my work on the IBA Presidential Taskforce. Given the positive feedback received on the Presidential Showcase session in Seoul, it has secured a continuation of this project for the IBA 2020 Virtually Together Conference in November 2020.
I am very passionate about advocating for the health and wellbeing aspect of legal practice, as well as continuing my agenda on the protection of migrant and refugee children at risk of modern slavery.
What inspired you to specialise in corporate immigration law?
A case that really changed my perspective and sparked my passion for legal advocacy was the pro bono case I took on in relation to a Bangladeshi girl who had a life-threatening medical condition and was the subject of deportation.
While I did not start out specialising in corporate immigration, it slowly became part of the territory. As the practice evolved in assisting skilled migrants to come to Australia, we built up a solid portfolio of corporate clients who had the need to bring in key skill areas that Australia was lacking.
Over the last 20 years we have seen the benefits of bringing such a skilled workforce into Australia, particularly in those industries or sectors where Australia did not have the population to meet the demand. We have been involved in large commercial projects where it was necessary to bring in highly skilled individuals to complete crucial projects.
What are the unique challenges of working in such an international area of law?
Part of the difficulty in dealing with immigration matters is that migration legislation is constantly evolving and changing, being a highly politicised area of law.
In this area of law, you are dealing with international documents on a daily basis and having to liaise with international embassies and organisations.
Due to the international aspect of immigration law it is always subject to the impacts of international events around the world, such as the recent covid-19 pandemic and explosion in Lebanon. Furthermore, in response to such events it is affected not only by the actions of the Australian government, but also the actions of overseas governments.
How effective has the Home Affairs portfolio been in combating a complex security environment and improving cooperation between various Australian enforcement agencies since its 2017 inception?
The Home Affairs portfolio brings together the strengths of individual government agencies to protect the safety, security and national interests of Australia. It is coordinated to benefit from the collaboration and alignment of continuous joint-agency effort.
The portfolio consists of:
Department of Home Affairs (Department);
Australian Border Force (ABF);
Australian Federal Police;
Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC);
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation; and
Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre.
While migration policy is a matter for the Department, the ABF is responsible for border control, detention and removal, as well as sponsorship monitoring and compliance. They work together to ensure non-citizens hold visas which allow them to lawfully work, that they are compliant with their visa conditions, and (where necessary) that workers are sponsored by approved business sponsors who meet their sponsorship obligations, under migration legislation.
The ABF works with law enforcement agencies alongside the Commonwealth and state/territory government and regulatory agencies to tackle foreign worker exploitation by utilising the full spectrum of enforcement measures. For example, there is ongoing engagement between the ABF and the Fair Work Ombudsman to leverage cross-agency expertise and bring about migrant worker, employer, and sponsor education and compliance outcomes.
Data sharing with law enforcement agencies and the Home Affairs’ Migration five partners (Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States) has strengthened since the establishment of the Home Affairs portfolio resulting in more than 3,000 persons confirmed or suspected of transnational serious and organised crimes being added to watch-lists to ensure any visa applications by these persons are independently scrutinised.
The ABF also leads the government’s response to modern slavery and is responsible for implementing the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth). The Home Affairs portfolio has also allowed for greater cooperation between agencies in tackling modern slavery over the years. The National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery is monitored by the Attorney-General’s Department. Agencies under the Home Affairs portfolio must cooperate and work together to tackle modern slavery. The AFP, for instance, is the primary investigative agency for human trafficking and slavery and is responsible for referring suspected victims to the Support for Trafficked People Program. On the other hand, the Department administers the Human Trafficking Visa Framework while the ABF is responsible for protecting Australia’s border and managing the movement of people and goods across it. The Department and ABF refer cases of suspected human trafficking and slavery to the ABF.
On what matters have clients most frequently asked you for advice over the past year? What would you say is driving this?
Over the past years, the Australian Skilled Migration Programme has gradually become more restrictive and complex. This is in response to the significant and ongoing growth and demand for skilled visas. We have assisted businesses in the fields of construction, hospitality, health, media and technical services. We have also seen a growing number of corporate clients and employers from low population areas in Australia seeking assistance with obtaining work visas with their chosen workers, while stimulating the regional economy. This was a result of the two new skilled regional provisional visas introduced in November 2019.
We have also been closely working with clients to assess their eligibility for the Global Talent Independent Program. This programme commenced in July 2019 and aims to identify high-calibre candidates. The number of places has increased from 5,000 places in 2019–20 to 15,000 for the year 2020–21. The Australian Government has deployed the global business and talent attraction taskforce to coordinate a streamlined pathway to permanent residency in order to attract high yield businesses and exceptional talent. The top future focused fields are: AgTech, Space and Advanced Manufacturing, FinTech, Energy and Mining Technology, MedTech, Cyber Security and Quantum Information, Advanced Digital, Data Science and ICT.
The coronavirus pandemic has also caused temporary disorder to the Australian immigration program. The pandemic has presented our firm with clients who have unprecedented issues and cases. Due to the strict border and travel restrictions, we have seen clients who seek advice on obtaining travel exemptions based on compelling and compassionate reasons. In line with the post-coronavirus pandemic recovery, my firm has had success in assisting clients bring in critical skilled individuals overseas to work on large-scale construction projects in Australia. As the request for an exemption is through the ABF Commissioner’s discretion, this remains a challenging area for immigration lawyers.
Given the growing complexity of Australian immigration law, this has become the main driver for the increasingly complicated matters we have been getting in the practice over the years.
As director of Immigration Solutions Lawyers, how are you dealing with the challenges posed by covid-19?
The nature of work has definitely changed. In response to covid-19, we have moved to remote working and video conferencing while making greater use of virtual office technologies. The question that now needs to be addressed is what is the new normal in the workplace and how to monitor for the best interests of legal practice, a remote work force.
There should be a focus on people not profits. Health and wellbeing in the workplace are becoming prominent and important issues in legal practice. A more humane approach is required and there should be a priority to look after people in the workplace and then the profits will flow. This is what the new normal will be, with greater flexibility in the workplace and a much higher reliance on technology. The role of an immigration lawyer as a trusted adviser should not be underestimated as we work our way through covid-19 and beyond.
What impact has technology had on corporate immigration practice in recent years?
With the advancements in technology, immigration practice has transformed significantly over the years. The Department has improved their service delivery and accomplished greater efficiencies through its digital service portal, ImmiAccount which facilitates a broad range of visa and citizenship applications to be lodged, tracked, managed and paid online. In 2018-19, new ImmiAccounts increased by 28 per cent on the previous year and 95 per cent of permanent and temporary visa applications were lodged online.
The increasing digitisation of services has eliminated administrative backlog and streamlined application processing. It has also increased the access to immigration services and the pace at which the services are delivered. With improvements of free and low-cost video conferencing, and the ability to access it from most devices, virtual consultations are more accessible option. Technology has definitely made it easier for immigration lawyers to meet with clients in settings that are now more convenient for them.
The advances in technology have also allowed the Department to create a more integrated and transparent approach to information, data sharing and data matching.
What advice would you give to younger immigration lawyers hoping to one day be in your position?
I would advise them to be committed and passionate. Young lawyers really need to have the capacity to empathise with immigrants and understand the complex nature of the migration programme.
The emergence of the global issue of modern slavery and the importance of ensuring ethical supply chains, has given young lawyers with interests in human rights and the rule of law a valuable opportunity to get involved in this aspect. While they can continue to develop their interest in corporate immigration law, they can also touch on other aspects of law along the way. This human rights aspect filtrates through all different areas of corporate law, such as mergers and acquisitions and corporate counsel.
My concluding advice to young lawyers is that with the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI), that young lawyers should work with this legal technology and be aware of the increasing popularity of AI tools. However, while these tools promote efficiency and accuracy, there is a caveat with regards to human rights. How do you do a business human rights assessment on AI? The model for AI is still developing and lawyers need to comprehend this and understand model prediction. This is a brave new world of technology, but one worth embracing with caution and reaching out to more senior mentors throughout this development process and beyond.
“She is revered for leading a very strong corporate immigration practice”
“Anne is an accredited specialist in immigration law”
Anne O’Donoghue is an accredited immigration law specialist and registered migration agent, with over 27 years of experience. She is the director and principal lawyer of Immigration Solutions Lawyers (ISL). Anne is acknowledged as one of Australia’s leading immigration law specialists. Anne has a special interest in modern slavery/human rights and professional ethics.
Anne was admitted to practise in the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1981, the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1987 and the High Court of Australia in 1982. In 1998, Anne received her specialist accreditation as an immigration lawyer from the NSW Law Society. Anne has been a member of the specialist accreditation advisory committee of the NSW Law Society since 2015.
Anne has also served as treasurer of the international law section of the Law Council of Australia (LCA) (2012–2016). In December 2012, Anne was appointed as a member of the LCA’s ILS executive. Anne is presently appointed as a co-chair of the ILS, human rights committee of the LCA. Anne has also been appointed as a co-chair of the LCA’s international human rights committee from December 2019. In 2020, Anne contributed to a submission for the LCA in response to the public consultation paper on the national action plan to combat modern slavery 2020–24. Anne subsequently worked on the LCA’s submission on the inquiry into human rights of women and girls in the Pacific for the ILS in her capacity as an executive member.
Anne has been an IBA member for 19 years, since 2002. After serving as the co-chair of the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee (INLC) of the International Bar Association (IBA), on the 1 January 2019, Anne was appointed immediate past co-chair of the INLC.
In 2019, Anne was appointed a member of the IBA’s presidential task force on the refugee crisis initiative, a child rights response to child migration and migrant children at risk. Anne was a co-moderator of the showcase session which was presented at the 2019 IBA Conference in Seoul. The INLC is the lead committee for this session and she was delighted to be working with the family law committee.
Anne O’Donoghue was the winner of the 2019 Lawyer’s Weekly migration partner of the year. In October 2019, Anne achieved a high commendation for the NSW Law Society’s presidents medal for her work on the IBA presidential taskforce in Seoul.
In January 2020, Anne was appointed as a member of the professional ethics committee advisory board of the IBA. In March 2020, Anne had also chaired a session on modern slavery at the Law Council of Australia migration conference in Melbourne.
As part of Anne’s role as co-chair of INLC of the IBA (2019–2020) in November 2020, she participated in the IBA 2020 virtually together conference. The INLC participated in nine working sessions and networking events and supported the session “Ending modern slavery – how the legal profession can meet the challenge”. This session was led by the rule of law committee in conjunction with the human resources section and the IBA legal policy and research unit.
Anne also co-moderated a session at the IBA 2020 virtually together conference, titled "Presidential task force continuation – the emergency evacuation visa and protocol for migrant children".
The INLC with Anne as co-chair, held a series of three webinars including: "The future of global mobility in a post-covid-19 world", "Immigration lawyers – the end of the cocktail party for marketing", which Anne co-moderated, The INLC was associated with and supported the webinar entitled The impact of covid-19 on modern slavery and child labour – how can lawyers make a difference?" This webinar was presented by the IBA Legal Policy and Research Unit, IBA Business Human Rights Committee, IBA Global Employment Institute and IBA Immigration and Nationality Law Committee and the IBA Rule of Law Forum. Anne was also speaker for the IBA on the topic "Lawyers at risk – impact of human trafficking and modern slavery on lawyers and their clients", in December 2020. This webinar was organised by the Human Rights Law Committee of the IBA.
Anne has been listed in WWL: Corporate Immigration for 10 consecutive years. In 2020 and 2021, Anne was recognised as a Global Elite Thought Leader by Who's Who Legal. She has described in WWL "a great practitioner” with extensive expertise chairing key immigration bodies and assisting client on a range of matters, immigration applications to sponsorship obligations.
During 2020, Anne hosted and organised key international webinars on the topic of global modern slavery under covid-19. Anne has completed two series of webinars on modern slavery, INLCuding one which focused on the effects of covid-19 on modern slavery – migrant smuggling and human trafficking from an Interpol prosecutions perspective. Recently, Anne participated in a very important webinar on pro bono legal advice and the importance of access to justice during covid-19.
Anne O'Donoghue is a “great practitioner” with extensive expertise chairing key immigration bodies and assisting clients on a range of matters, from immigration applications to sponsorship obligations.
Anne O’Donoghue is an accredited immigration law specialist and registered migration agent, with over 27 years of experience. She is the director and principal lawyer of Immigration Solutions Lawyers (ISL). Anne is acknowledged as one of Australia’s leading immigration law specialists.
Anne was admitted to practise in the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1981, the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1987 and the High Court of New South Wales in 1982. Anne has been recognised on multiple occasions as an advocate for women in business, and for her work as an active leader in the field of immigration law.
In 1998, Anne received her specialist accreditation as an immigration lawyer from the NSW Law Society. Anne has been a member of the specialist accreditation advisory committee of the NSW Law Society since September 2015. Anne was delighted to become a member of the global migration section of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
Anne has also served as treasurer of the international law section (ILS) of the Law Council of Australia (LCA) (2012-2016). In December 2012, Anne was appointed as a member of the Law Council of Australia’s (LCA) International Law Section (ILS) Executive. Anne is presently appointed as a Co-Chair of the ILS, Human Rights Committee of the LCA. Anne has been appointed as a co-chair of the LCA’s international human rights committee from December 2019. In 2020, Anne worked and contributed on a submission for the Law Council of Australia in response to the Public Consultation Paper on the National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery 2020-24. During 2020, Anne also worked on the Law Council of Australia Submission on the Inquiry into Human Rights of Women and Girls in the Pacific for the International Law Section in her capacity as an Executive member of the ILS. Given Anne’s extensive experience in this area, she will also be chairing an LCA Webinar on Modern Slavery as part of the ILS International Law and Practice Course on modern slavery scheduled for 17 November 2020.
On the 1 January 2019, Anne was appointed Co-Chair of the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee of the International Bar Association (IBA). Anne has been an IBA member since 2002. In 2019, Anne was appointed a member of the IBA’s Presidential Task Force on the Refugee Crisis Initiative, A Child Rights Response to Child Migration and Migrant Children at Risk. Anne was a Co-Moderator of the Showcase session which was presented at the 2019 IBA Conference in Seoul. On the 24 October 2019, Anne achieved a high commendation for the NSW Law Society’s Presidents Medal for her work on the IBA Presidential Taskforce in Seoul. Anne was also awarded the Lawyer’s Weekly Migration Partner of the Year Award in 2019. Anne was subsequently invited to chair a session on modern slavery at the Law Council Australia Migration Conference in Melbourne in March 2020. Given the positive feedback received on the Presidential Showcase session in Seoul, the Presidential Taskforce has secured a continuation of this project for the IBA 2020 – Virtually Together Conference (26 November 2020) titled Presidential Task Force continuation: the emergency evacuation visa and protocol for migrant children.
On 24 January 200, Anne O’Donoghue was appointed as a member of the Professional Ethics Committee Advisory Board of the IBA.
During 2020, Anne has hosted and organised key international Webinars on the topic of global modern slavery under COVID-19. Anne has completed 2 series of webinars on Modern Slavery, including one which focused on the effects of Covid-19 on Modern Slavery: Migrant Smuggling and Human Trafficking from an Interpol Prosecutions perspective. On 6 August 2020, Anne participated in a Webinar on the topic of Social Justice and Development under Covid-19 (International Perspective). This featured notable international speakers Francisco Roggero and Bianca Jagger as it explored the impact of Covid-19 on modern slavery in Central America.
Anne has been invited to participate in a Virtual Roundtable event for Corporate Livewire which will be live in September 2020. The event focuses on the effects of Covid-19 on the victims of modern slavery and how corporate supply chains have been impacted.
Anne is also an experienced writer and co-authored the Australia chapter of The Corporate Immigration Review, now in its tenth edition. In 2020, Anne contributed towards the Expert Analysis Chapter titled Global Overview on Modern Slavery and Corporate Supply Chain Compliance published by the ICLG Corporate Immigration Guide 2020. Anne also contributed her opinions on an article of the IBA Global Insight Magazine on Covid-19: Emergency travel bans raise immigration concerns written by Jennifer Sadler-Venis. Anne has been listed in WWL: Corporate Immigration for 11 consecutive years (2011-2020). Since 2019, Anne was invited to feature in WWL Thought Leaders: Corporate Immigration (2019, 2020, 2021). Anne has been a finalist at the Lawyers Weekly’s Partner of theYear Awards, in the migration category, for two consecutive years (2017 and 2018); in 2019, Anne won the Lawyers Weekly Migration Partner of the Year Award.