Charlene Tan: on the migration industry & career development

Being a reputed migration agent, Charlene Tan is no stranger to the world of deadlines, policy changes and paperwork.

After years of trial and error in the field, Charlene is now a proud business owner of Wayfinder Migration, a migration agency that helps deliver and advise on the best possible visa outcomes.

Charlene is often accompanied by her work buddy, Wags (the adorable dog in the picture). She tells us more about her professional journey, her industry and why she loves her job.

When did you decide to become a migration agent?

It’s a funny story, I’m originally from Singapore and studied marketing in university, and then went on to work for global technology brands for about 15 years. I never though I would be a migration agent. But after I moved to Perth 6 years ago, I joined the family business in migration law advisory..and the rest as they say is history.

To practice as a migration professional in Australia, you need to obtain a license. And to do that, you must hold the required qualifications – which at the time was a Graduate Certificate in Australia Migration Law. I will freely admit that up until that point – it was one of the hardest and most intense 6 months of my life!

After 5 years with the family business and then some with a couple of good friends, Wayfinder Migration was founded 6 months ago – and I’m happy to confirm, it’s going great!

What do you love most about your job?

I value providing a safe, non – judgmental space for my clients when they come to see me. This instills trust and enables me to understand and help their case better. So, to answer your question, it would be – building genuine relationships alongside providing a positive solution for my clients.

What’s the hardest part about being a migration agent? 

The hardest part is when you need to be brutally honest about a case that cannot be improved on. While there are always options to explore, you will have instances where you can’t do much. Also, getting a visa refusal is never fun, even when you expect it. So, conveying that news to a client is always disappointing. 

In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception with the process of a visa grant? What area can be improved in the process? 

That “one size fits all”.

People generally believe that the same set of rules applies to all visa applications. That if you do a certain set of things for a visa, you are guaranteed one, but this is far from the truth. This is because visa applications are scenario-based and are politically-influenced, resulting in multiple changes over time as well as variables impacting visa eligibility and outcomes.

Additionally, the case officers processing visa applications are not qualified in migration law the way agents and lawyers are. They are not required to intimately understand migration law enforcing the rules and do on occasion incorrectly refuse an application, which is contrary to the law. In these instances, only agents and lawyers will spot this mistake and be able to advise you on how to manage the situation. In fact, I had a client who called the Department hotline on three separate occasions and received three different types of advice on her visa query!

What is the biggest reason for people to migrate to Australia? Why is Australia such a major hub in particular? 

A number of migrants arrive in search of employment opportunities. But caregiving, seeking refuge and marriage are also major reasons for people to move to Australia. Australia is one of the few countries who really are so welcoming and really want people to succeed…who wouldn’t want to move here! We are also seeing an active effort by the Australian Government to prioritise skilled onshore applications, which tells us how important the migrant community is to the economy of the country.

Knowing what you know now, what professional advice would you give yourself?

“I’m a perfectionist and was a massive people pleaser. So, knowing what I know now, I would tell myself that it’s okay to not have all the answers but rather, it’s important to know where to find them.
And also, that you’re not everyone’s cup of tea, not everyone has to like you…and that’s okay.”

What are the key tools to be successful in your line of work?

A software that has really helped me and that I recommend is Migration Manager. I use this to help keep track of progress of an application, deadlines and manage case information. It’s an expensive software, but it is worth the investment.
Good active listening is also a crucial skill to maintain if you are a migration agent. The more you can listen, the more you can effectively help your client.

Thoughts on CoWork Me?

I love the inclusive and uplifting environment of the space. But what I like most is that CoWork Me is well aligned with my personality – professional, yet fun! The staff is great and goes out of their way to make sure members feel supported and have everything they need to focus on their work!


Follow Charlene on her social to know more about her work & industry insights:

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Tiktok: @charlene_wayfinder