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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Maria Jockel is “one of the most knowledgeable immigration lawyers in the country” and “an incredible support” to clients who value her “exceptional client service”.

Questions & Answers

Maria Jockel is the legal principal and national leader of BDO Migration Services, an incorporated immigration legal practice that specialises in all aspects of Australian immigration law for corporate and private clients. She is an accredited immigration law specialist and a registered migration agent.

The Australian government has imposed some of the world’s strictest lockdown and travel requirements during covid-19. What measures were put in place and how have these impacted Australia in the short and longer term?

So as to safeguard Australia’s national security and prosperity, Australia has closed its borders, restricted travel, suspended everyday life and shutdown a large part of the economy during covid-19.

Australia has imposed some of the world’s strictest lockdown measures with the Commonwealth government leading a coordinated response, informed by the inter-governmental emergency framework, most notably the creation of a National Cabinet and shaped by its commitment to the World Health Organisation’s International Health Regulations.

There has been extensive use of emergency powers under the Biosecurity Act (at the Commonwealth level) and Victoria’s Public Health and Wellbeing Act (at the state-level) that have never been used before, or are untested in law.

The imposition of widespread social and economic lockdown using emergency powers raises vexing questions about the balance between the rule of law and security.

While Australia has experienced the single greatest economic shock since the Great Depression and is now in recession, the Australian, state and territory governments have implemented a range of stimulus packages to address the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

In response to Australia’s deficit of A$213 billion (the largest since World War II) and debt of close to $1 trillion, the Australian government’s historic economic support package of $259 billion aims to achieve structural reforms, protect and create jobs and jobs training, invest in advanced manufacturing, infrastructure, a digital economy, health, research and development, and drive Australia’s economic recovery.

The closure of the Australia’s borders has significantly dented net overseas migration with a fall by 30 per cent in 2019–2020 and an even further fall in 2021. Last year’s net migration was 270,000, but with the borders closed, it will only be 40,500 as a net migration figure this year.

As the covid-19 recession in Australia is smaller than seen in much of the developed world, with the downturn in the global economy, the US election, the rise in European covid-19 infections and the crisis unfolding in many countries, Australia continues to be a safe haven.

The Australian government’s carefully calibrated migration programme, which is focused on security and prosperity, is a key component of Australia’s economic recovery.

What is the impact to Australia’s court system and adapting to the conditions under the pandemic?

The use of emergency powers has tested the limits of Australia’s federal system and has posed issues as to the distribution of powers between national, state and territory governments.

The lockdown has impacted on the courts and the legal profession, in carrying out the essential role in the administration of justice.

The courts have issued practice notes to explain criminal, common law and commercial procedures for the legal profession and self-represented litigants in response to covid-19, including scheduling of matters, applications and hearing processes, logistics and communication and other pretrial processes.

The legal profession has been restricted from accessing worksites and court hearings have been suspended or restricted, as a result of which courts and tribunals have made various adjustments to deal with the pandemic.

Online communication, teleconferencing or audio-visual link facilities have been used to participate in remote court hearings, court-ordered dispute resolution, arbitration, mediation, conciliation, settlement conference, statutory conference and inquiries.

In criminal division hearings WebEx has been used, and directions have been provided in relation to prioritising matters and accessing the courts. Guides have been issued to provide tips and suggestions for videoconferencing etiquette. An emergency protocol notice to practitioners has been issued outlining the process for applying for a trial by judge alone. 

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal has asked lawyers to identify clients’ cases that are suitable for a virtual hearing. Appropriate cases are listed for video hearings where up-to-date evidence or necessary information can be provided expeditiously.

The Tribunal will consider all written submissions and where appropriate nominated cases will be selected for a hearing via video.

The technical requirements for participating in a hearing by video include a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone running specified software programs, a stable high-speed internet connection, webcam, speakers or headphone and a microphone, and a quiet room with adequate lighting.

Participating in remote court hearings requires both the court and the practitioner to consider the nature of the case and the litigant’s ability to access appropriate technology, before facilitating a video hearing.

In Victoria, following continuous advocacy by the profession the government has published a revised Industry Restriction Level for Professional Services (Legal) in the metropolitan Melbourne region. This has permitted access to work sites where it is not reasonably practicable for the person to work remotely, or the person is required to attend court where requested.

While the courts progressively move to a digital business plan, the pandemic has limited access to the courts and the legal profession.

As the courts and the legal profession are essential components of the covid-19 crisis recovery and the administration of justice, there will be significant challenges in dealing with the backlog of cases and the demands on the courts and the legal profession arising from covid-19.

How has covid-19 and the change in world and power dynamics, impacted Australia’s migration program? 

With covid-19, a contested and rapidly evolving strategic risk environment and the recession, the Australian government’s focus is on making Australia a safer, more prosperous and more united nation.

National security is the key priority with a focus on threat, intelligence, protect and response shaping Australia’s future.

AUSTRAC is being strengthened to achieve stronger and more sustainable regulatory and intelligence outcomes by enhancing industry compliance with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing obligations, and maintaining frontline policing.

With the 2020 Cyber Security Strategy, new cybersecurity and law enforcement capabilities are being implemented to safeguard critical infrastructure and services.

The Migration Program is part of the Economic Recovery Plan. 

While the 2020–21 planning ceiling for the Migration Program remains at 160,000 places, it is more selective programme with a focus on attracting the best talent through the Global Talent Independent Program (15,000 places), the Business Investment & Innovation Program (13,500 places) and the Employer Sponsored Program (22,000 places).

With a one-off increase in the family stream planning level set at 77,300 places, including 72,300 within the partner category (mainly onshore), of the new permanent residents coming to Australia, approximately two-thirds will be under the skilled stream and one third from the family stream.

The new Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL), which will be reviewed regularly, applies only to employer-sponsored visa programmes. It will allow small numbers of sponsored skilled workers to enter Australia to help create Australian jobs and rebuild Australia’s economy.

With one million Australians unemployed and some two million temporary visa holders currently in Australia, labour market testing requirements were enhanced on 1 October 2020, so Australian jobs are prioritised.

While Australia’s international border restrictions remain in place, only Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families are permitted to enter unless an exemption is granted.

With offshore visa applicants, the visa will only be granted if a travel exemption is approved by the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force or his delegate.

Temporary skilled visa applicants or current visa holders with a PMSOL occupation are eligible to request an exemption from Australia’s travel restrictions.

All travellers entering Australia must undergo full quarantine for 14 days from arrival in a designated hotel facility in the port of arrival.

As Australia’s recession was essentially induced because of the government restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, the government’s Economic Recovery  Plan and a carefully managed Migration Program will help Australia’s economy to rebound from covid-19.

The focus is also on continuing to grow social cohesion and integration. The family sponsorship programme will be extended to partner visas, existing domestic violence provisions within the partner visa programme will be strengthened, and an English language requirement will be introduced in 2021 for partner visa applicants and permanent resident sponsors.

There will be ongoing reforms so that Australia remains a safer and more cohesive nation as part of the government’s Economic Recovery Plan.

Australia has some of the most complex legislation and regulation regarding immigration. How would you advise clients to navigate this labyrinth? 

Since the 1990s, Australia has grappled with increasing demand for temporary and permanent entry to Australia, by creating an increasingly complex and ever-changing labyrinth of laws and policies which are subject to frequent and ongoing change.

The legislative scheme is some 3,000 pages in respect of 99 visa categories, underpinned by some 50,000 pages of policy guidelines available under licence, which guide the Department of Home Affairs delegates in the exercise of their decision-making powers. 

In November 2017, the Department of Immigration was receiving over 30,000 visa applications each day worldwide. In the 2019 financial year, it generated A$2.35 billion from visa fees, fines and levies. 

Prior to covid-19, the Department of Home Affairs was budgeted to raise about A$3 billion from visa fees, fines and levies. 

With the predicted and ongoing increase in demand for temporary and permanent entry visas, the government will continue to reform the Migration Program as part of the ongoing transformation of the management of Australia’s borders, and the movement of goods and people across Australia’s borders.

Clients are advised not to try to navigate through this labyrinth, but instead to seek out specialist immigration law advice as to what, if any, options may be available in their circumstances.

As Australia will continue to undertake significant ongoing reform initiatives, only by obtaining credible and expert advice will a client be able to realistically assess what may be possible in their case.

In an increasingly uncertain world, what do you find most challenging about practising corporate immigration law today? 

Immigration has always been a dynamic area of law. It is challenging and complex. It is part of nation building, and in these uncertain times, more restrictive and focused on reform and economic recovery.

With the establishment of the Home Affairs Portfolio, which brings together the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force, the Department of Immigration, Citizenship, Migration Services and Multicultural Affairs, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, AUSTRAC and the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, Australia is best placed to continue to thrive in a turbulent and unpredictable world.

With the Home Affairs Portfolio as the central policy agency and the whole-of-government approach across national security, law enforcement, visa operations and intelligence, you need to keep abreast of the strong border controls in the context of visa operations and visa reforms.

The increasingly uncertain world means that you have to be agile and resilient, keep up with constant change, understand why it is occurring and its implications for you, your client and how best to meet your client’s needs.

Regardless of the challenges, corporate immigration continues to offer enormous satisfaction for me as it is a privilege to work with some of the best corporations and talent under Australia’s temporary and skilled employer-sponsored migration programmes. 

What are some areas of increasing activity you have identified at your firm in terms of immigration?

Australia’s borders closed in March 2020 and have remained closed ever since. They are likely to remain closed until at least early 2021. 

The closure of the borders has generally meant that Australian citizens and permanent residents have had to apply for an outbound travel exemption in order to depart Australia, and non-Australian citizens/permanent residents have had to apply for an inwards travel approval, with applications assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Overnight, the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force, who has the same standing as the Chief Australian Defence Forces, was delegated with the power to determine inwards and outbound travel exemptions.

The exemption process is complex as the online application process is triaged by the Department of Home Affairs and managed by the Commissioner Discretions Team. 

Although the planned date of travel must be provided, as applications are considered on a case-by-case basis, key supporting evidence must be provided to support all claims.

The Australian Border Force, as a law enforcement agency, has continued to evolve and adapt to support Australia’s pandemic response, including to develop a more efficient and effective border protection system of which the travel exemption process is a part. 

In August 2020, there were about 18,000 Australians and permanent residents that were granted an exemption and departed Australia. Of the inbound requests, there were some 26,000 in August, a significant number of which are refused. No visa application can be granted unless an inward travel exemption is approved.

This adds further complexity to visa processing, at a time when the Department of Home Affairs has focused its resources on border control and covid-19.

The closure of Australia’s borders also requires a sound understanding of the state/territory quarantine measures, and the circumstances in which an exemption to the mandatory 14-day quarantine in a designated hotel facility may be substituted by self-isolation at home. 

With the Australian government capping the number of international travellers from July 2020, the added challenge is the difficulties in obtaining flights to Australia.

Covid-19 has also brought into view the extraordinary powers of state health officers. The Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2018 (Vic) has allowed extreme lockdown measures and curfew to be imposed, and a significant extension of state of emergency powers, which many question and are now subject to a challenge in the High Court of Australia.

All of these restrictive measures have created a greater demand for specialist immigration advice, so that BDO Migration Services that I lead is busier than ever, as we continue to provide an exceptional service and results to our discerning clients.

Do you see the populist, anti-immigration trend in Europe as something that is likely to continue and spread globally? 

In this turbulent and ever-changing world, the unprecedented mass movement of people across borders, Brexit and Trump and now covid-19, more restrictive immigration policies are being adopted across the world as countries focus on national security and safety.

It has put a stop to the mass movement of people across borders, which in 2019, the United Nations reported were some 259 million people, and some 68 million displaced people seeking asylum.

Covid-19, which arose from China and spread across the world, has heightened the evolving international power dynamics and the emergence of new strategic threats.

In response, countries will continue to undertake reform initiatives and recovery priorities.

In a dynamic, global economic trade and risk environment, and as part of the ongoing transformation of the management of borders, Australia will continue to calibrate a carefully managed migration programme.

When the world is grappling with the biggest health emergency and economic disaster for over 100 years, covid-19 has dramatically reduced international travel, closed borders, caused recessions and driven a reconsideration of national priorities including migration.

In Australia, the focus is on the prosperity, cohesion and unity of the nation and a highly selective migration programme.

Whatever the future holds, let’s hope that it is not as overwhelmingly challenging as what we are living through with covid-19.

Global Leader

Corporate Immigration 2021

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

Peers and clients say

“Maria is an outstanding and long-standing accredited specialist” 

“She is extremely knowledgeable across immigration issues”

"Maria consistently achieves exceptional results for her clients”

Biography

Maria is the legal principal and leader of BDO Migration Services, an incorporated legal practice which specialises in all aspects of Australian immigration and nationality law for corporate and private clients. She is an accredited immigration law specialist.

Acknowledged as one of Australia's leading immigration law specialists, Maria brings a unique depth and breadth of immigration law and corporate and commercial-related legal experience from her years in private practice. This is complemented by Maria's former advisory and senior management roles while in government service.

Regarded as an authority on immigration law, Maria is listed in Who's Who Legal: Corporate Immigration (2010–2020) and is nominated in the peer review Best Lawyers (2008–2020). She is a sought-after speaker and lecturer, and a prolific author on all aspects of immigration and citizenship law. Her recent works include the book 457 Visa Law: Addressing Australia's Skilled Labour Shortage (Thomson Reuters, 2008). She has also written chapters in Immigration Law Client Strategies in the Asia-Pacific (Aspatore, 2009); Getting the Deal Through: Corporate Immigration (2012-2017); Global Mobility (ILW, 2012-2016); and Corporate Immigration Annual Review (Financier Worldwide, 2013); and the Australian chapter of the International Comparative Legal Guide to: Corporate Immigration (2017-2019), as well as many other publications. She co-wrote “A Comparative Analysis to Labour Outsourcing” in The Arizona Journal of International Law and Comparative Law.

Most recently, Maria spoke at the International Bar Association (IBA) Annual Conference in Sydney in October 2017; the IBA 8th Biennial Global Conference in London in November 2017, the IBA Annual Conference in Seoul in September 2019; and at the 9th Biennial Global IBA Immigration Conference in November 2019.

Maria is a sought after speaker both locally and internationally.

Maria's practice includes all aspects of immigration law, including: employer nomination temporary/permanent residency applications; business skills migration; complex matters involving health and character issues; skilled migration; review applications at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal/Migration Review Division; citizenship; ministerial submissions; international education; the Educational Services of Overseas Students Act and the National Code; labour agreements; and regulatory compliance and due diligence and related advices.

Maria heads a team of lawyers dedicated to providing strategic, expert and practical advice and business solutions in all aspects of visa and migration-related requirements.

As a leader in her field, Maria offers strategic and practical solutions based on her expertise and knowledge of immigration law and policy, government and business. As a trusted adviser and specialist counsel, she acts for some of Australia's leading corporations and high-profile individuals to provide a premium service with outstanding results.

Maria acts for international and Australian corporations, bringing skilled personnel to Australia to meet labour force needs. She also advises international education providers on the requirements for the National Code and regulatory compliance relevant to education of overseas students. She represents business, skilled and family migrants advising in all aspects of temporary and permanent residency and migration-related matters.

Maria is a member of: the migration law committee of the Law Council of Australia; the migration law committee of the Law Institute of Victoria; the citizenship and nationality section of the International Bar Association; and the Migration Institute of Australia.

Maria's former roles include: member of the executive committee of the international law section of the Law Council of Australia; convener of the Immigration Lawyers Association of Australasia of the Law Council of Australia; founding member of the advisory committee on immigration law specialisation of the Law Institute of Victoria and its accredited specialisation education advisory committee; member of the National Immigration Specialisation Committee for Immigration Law; member of the Nationality and Population Council; member of the Family Law Council of Australia; member of the Advisory Council to the Office of Multicultural Affairs; deputy chair of the Victorian Ethnic Affairs Commission; consultant to the Law Reform Commission; consultant to the Australian Council of Education and Research in the development of the Migration Agents Examination; and accredited specialist in family law at the Law Institute Victoria.

In her current and former roles, and having advised on government policy and legal matters at State and Federal levels, Maria has contributed to shaping the future of immigration law in Australia.

As the author of landmark legal texts and a regular speaker at national and international conferences and forums, Maria has been recognised for her contribution to continuing professional education by the Law Institute of Victoria.

Maria has a Bachelor of Law (second-class honours) Degree, as well as a Bachelor of Arts (first-class honours) Degree from the University of Melbourne. She is an accredited specialist in Immigration Law (Law Institute of Victoria) and a solicitor at the Supreme Court of Victoria and the High Court of Australia.

As an immigration law specialist with a full practicing certificate, Maria is no longer required to be registered as a migration agent with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority, following changes to the law as to regulation of migration agents effective from 22 March 2021. 

National Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Maria Jockel's position as one of Australia’s leading corporate immigration lawyers is acknowledged by clients, as is her comprehensive industry knowledge and consistently excellent results. Sources say, “Maria is simply on a level all of her own.” 

Biography

Maria is the legal principal and leader of BDO Migration Services, an incorporated legal practice which specialises in all aspects of Australian immigration and nationality law for corporate and private clients. She is an accredited immigration law specialist and a registered migration agent.

Acknowledged as one of Australia's leading immigration law specialists, Maria brings a unique depth and breadth of immigration law and corporate and commercial-related legal experience from her years in private practice. This is complemented by Maria's former advisory and senior management roles while in government service.

Regarded as an authority on immigration law, Maria is listed in Who's Who Legal: Corporate Immigration (2010–2020) and is nominated in the peer review Best Lawyers (2008–2020). She is a sought-after speaker and lecturer, and a prolific author on all aspects of immigration and citizenship law. Her recent works include the book 457 Visa Law: Addressing Australia's Skilled Labour Shortage (Thomson Reuters, 2008). She has also written chapters in Immigration Law Client Strategies in the Asia-Pacific (Aspatore, 2009); Getting the Deal Through: Corporate Immigration (2012-2017); Global Mobility (ILW, 2012-2016); and Corporate Immigration Annual Review (Financier Worldwide, 2013); and the Australian chapter of the International Comparative Legal Guide to: Corporate Immigration (2017-2019), as well as many other publications. She co-wrote “A Comparative Analysis to Labour Outsourcing” in The Arizona Journal of International Law and Comparative Law.

Most recently, Maria spoke at the International Bar Association (IBA) Annual Conference in Sydney in October 2017; the IBA 8th Biennial Global Conference in London in November 2017, the IBA Annual Conference in Seoul in September 2019; and at the 9th Biennial Global IBA Immigration Conference in November 2019.

Maria is a sought after speaker both locally and internationally.

Maria's practice includes all aspects of immigration law, including: employer nomination temporary/permanent residency applications; business skills migration; complex matters involving health and character issues; Federal Court applications; skilled migration; review applications at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal/Migration Review Division; citizenship; ministerial submissions; international education; the Educational Services of Overseas Students Act and the National Code; labour agreements; and regulatory compliance and due diligence and related advices.

Maria heads a team of lawyers dedicated to providing strategic, expert and practical advice and business solutions in all aspects of visa and migration-related requirements.

As a leader in her field, Maria offers strategic and practical solutions based on her expertise and knowledge of immigration law and policy, government and business. As a trusted adviser and specialist counsel, she acts for some of Australia's leading corporations and high-profile individuals to provide a premium service with outstanding results.

Maria acts for international and Australian corporations, bringing skilled personnel to Australia to meet labour force needs. She also advises international education providers on the requirements for the National Code and regulatory compliance relevant to education of overseas students. She represents business, skilled and family migrants advising in all aspects of temporary and permanent residency and migration-related matters.

Maria is currently a member of: the migration law committee of the Law Council of Australia; the migration law committee of the Law Institute of Victoria; the citizenship and nationality section of the International Bar Association; the Australian Human Resource Institute; and the Migration Institute of Australia.

Maria's former roles include: member of the executive committee of the international law section of the Law Council of Australia; convenor of the Immigration Lawyers Association of Australasia of the Law Council of Australia; founding member of the advisory committee on immigration law specialisation of the Law Institute of Victoria and its accredited specialisation education advisory committee; member of the National Immigration Specialisation Committee for Immigration Law; member of the Nationality and Population Council; member of the Family Law Council of Australia; member of the Advisory Council to the Office of Multicultural Affairs; deputy chair of the Victorian Ethnic Affairs Commission; consultant to the Law Reform Commission; consultant to the Australian Council of Education and Research in the development of the Migration Agents Examination; and accredited specialist in family law at the Law Institute Victoria.

In her current and former roles, and having advised on government policy and legal matters at State and Federal levels, Maria has contributed to shaping the future of immigration law in Australia.

As the author of landmark legal texts and a regular speaker at national and international conferences and forums, Maria has been recognised for her contribution to continuing professional education by the Law Institute of Victoria.

Maria has a Bachelor of Law (second-class honours) Degree, as well as a Bachelor of Arts (first-class honours) Degree from the University of Melbourne. She is an accredited specialist in Immigration Law (Law Institute of Victoria) and a solicitor at the Supreme Court of Victoria and the High Court of Australia.

Features by Maria Jockel

The Closure of Australia’s Borders

The Closure of Australia’s Borders




Australia’s Migration Programme: A New Epoch in Protecting and Managing Australia’s Borders

Australia’s Migration Programme: A New Epoch in Protecting and Managing Australia’s Borders

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