Interview with Natasa Shelley, registered migration agent from Sunshine Coast, Australia

When did you move to Australia?
I moved to Australia in June 2003, with my husband Bob, who was born in Australia. We lived together in Slovenia for two years while I was working as a legal consultant in Ljubljana prior to relocating to Australia.

Why did you move here?
We decided to settle in Australia, primarily as career opportunities for Bob at that time were limited in Slovenia. Also, the Australian lifestyle I believe was for us more attractive. We wanted to make home in both countries, therefore we still live between two countries, Slovenia and Australia. 

What were you doing in Slovenia before you came here?
In Slovenia I am a lawyer (univerzitetna diplomirana pravnica). I have worked as a legal consultant for a small private company In Ljubljana.

What is your own experience of being a migrant in Australia?
Immigrating to another country is not an easy step. When I relocated, I felt that my life started all over again. Every beginning represents challenges and I believe that one's attitude in times of struggle will determine the outcome. I am always positive and optimistic, this is how I approached the relocation to Australia and succeeded. It is important I believe to have an open mind and not to be overly disappointed if plans do not realise instantly. I found out that persistence and effort are the key.

What prompted you to become a migration agent in Australia? 
I enjoy law and legal consulting. My Slovenian legal qualifications were not automatically recognised in Australia. With Bob we wanted to start a family and I was looking for opportunity to start my own business and work from home, so I could devote time to my family. At that time I really wished to obtain an Australian qualification and to improve my English skills. I completed a management degree at the University of the Sunshine Coast and gained valuable knowledge to start my own business.
Every time we travelled overseas or lived in Slovenia, people were asking me about how to migrate to Australia and shared with me their experiences of trying to gain information and advice regarding their eligibility and seeking available migration assistance.
I prepared and lodged my own partner visa in 2003 and found it easy to meet partner visa requirements.   I guess that once I started reading about immigration law and visa types I was hooked and started to look for opportunities to do this myself. The path to registration was around 6 months long and costly. I studied online at Victoria University to obtain a Certificate in Australian Immigration Law and Practice and then proceed with registration at the Office of Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA). It was all smooth and I commenced working in early 2008. 
I really enjoy my work. I have an office at home and a wonderful lifestyle with excellent work/life balance. I regard myself extremely fortunate.

What is your experience with Slovenians who wish to settle in Australia?
Naturally, as I am Slovenian myself I started advertising my business first in Slovenia. Today the majority of my clients are still Slovenians or have a Slovenian connection (e.g., partner or sponsor). Slovenian clients are wonderful to work with. As we are able to use both languages and have the same cultural background, it seems we have good understanding of each other. Slovenia is such a small country and the word of mouth spreads quickly. Slovenians are happy to refer our services to their friends and relatives and are loyal to our business. If we start to work with them for a temporary entry to Australia, they will continue with us until their permanent visa is approved. We try to stay in touch with Slovenians after their arrival to Australia and offer advice on settling into the Australian way of life. 

Can you describe the whole procedure?
Initially clients contact us to find out more about their eligibility for a visa, our services and processes involved in the  visa application process. We provide a free initial service during which we check for the required documents, such as CV and education documentation to assess their eligibility for a visa. If an individual or a family is found to meet the minimum requirements for a visa then we proceed to an online interview through Skype and after signing the contract and initial payment for our services, we commence to work on their behalf. We usually work on client’s case between 1 month to 8 months depending on the visa type and their ability to meet all the components of the application process.  There are usually more steps to the application depending on the visa type. For majority of visas it is a requirement to have sound English skills, suitable qualifications and work experience. The Australian Government charges and fees involved in the visa application are high, although after arrival those initial costs are recovered quickly especially once the job is obtained in Australia, as wages are generally much higher in Australia.

What do you see as the main problem?
Most problems arise in relation to meeting eligibility requirements for a visa. Clients would prefer to enter Australia on a permanent visa, which provides one with the status of permanent resident and related rights. Permanent entry to Australia initially requires candidates to have very good English, suitable qualifications and long-term employment in a skilled occupation that appears in demand in Australia. Most problems arise when qualifications and experience are not closely related to the occupation that appears on the Australian skills-in-demand list or when candidates fail to obtain suitable English test results. These problems can be overcome by additional education in Australia, either by up-skilling in the English language or by obtaining additional qualification and working experience in Australia. This means higher initial costs, but it is worth the effort to commence a new life here. Lately many choose this path as the Australian government made it possible for international students on higher levels of education (Bachelor Degree and higher) to stay in Australia for at least 2 years on unlimited working rights in Australia after at least 2 years of study.

What are your plans for the future?
This year we are celebrating 6 years of We have excellent reputation and success with all our visa applications. I will continue to provide professional immigration advice for those who wish to relocate to Australia. We are preparing to provide advice for NZ. In the future I am looking into expanding the business and to provide further immigration related services in regards to education and employment.
I am excited about the future of Australia Needs P/L. I invite anyone who is interested to receive professional and honest advice from a registered migration agent in Australia to contact me at

What does it mean to be Slovenian?

On Friday was my last day of work at the Embassy of Slovenia in Canberra.This point in my life when my three year involvement with the Slovenian establishment has finished and I am venturing into new places is a good opportunity to reflect on my experience of being Slovenian.

We each have our own truth. Migrants generally see our homeland through our own individual perspective which is very much coloured by whatever happened to us in relation to Slovenia and the country where we finally settled.

My experience is very mixed. I used to ask myself: Am I proud to be Slovenian? Sometimes the answer was yes, while at other times embarrassment was a better description of this vague feeling of my ethnicity. I no longer ask this question. Being Slovenian is a part of me and describes one layer of my personality. It is neither good nor bad, it just is. Nothing to be proud of or embarrassed about.

Thinking about what it means to be Slovenian brings up memories of kind and generous people with hearts made of gold. Their basically peasant background is not concerned with civilised good manners that are so highly regarded in the Anglo-Saxon world. Instead they see directly into your heart and take you for what you are. They can see the funny side of pompous behaviour and, crude as they sometimes come across, relish their connectedness to earth.

This beautiful idyllic image has its flip side and I've experienced a fair share of that too. When these kind and generous people become ambitious and get to the top of the heap, they turn into arrogant users and abusers of those under them. They go to a special school where they learn how to manipulate the rest of the population. On the way to the top, they make sure the competition is removed by any means and once they have arrived they feel they are free to do whatever they like. The most successful tend to be the most brutally ruthless ones.

Most Slovenians are somewhere in between.

Our Catholic and communist background is the base on which we were brought up and is hard to overcome. The war between the two authoritarian ideologies has been raging since World War II with no end in sight. Talking about partizani and domobranci is still presented as the story of good and evil, or evil and good depending on the side you choose to take, leaving in its wake a trail of damaged and frightened victims. But the noble war continues, seemingly until its bitter end. Or, until we realise that killing each other is wrong, regardless of the ideologies that so readily provide justification for murder, torture, terror and lies.

The two seemingly opposing ideologies primed the Slovenian people to obey and fear anybody in the position of authority. Fear holds most Slovenians back from opening up and feeling comfortable in the imperfect world around us. Constant worry about whether we are doing the right thing consumes our energy and allows those at the top to manipulate us to their liking. Fear of rules and regulations that are sometimes, but not always, applied to the senseless letter; of what neighbours might think; of whether we are good enough; of  our boss, our priest or the local officer,  and especially of the unknown cripples the whole nation mentally and allows the ruling elite to fill their pockets while woffling about national interest.
Slovenians, wake up! As the saying goes, fear is hollow inside and on the outside it doesn't exist! Let's face our fears and and we will all grow, individually and as a nation.

Migration statistics

According to the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia the unemployment rate of young people in Slovenia in 2012 stood at 17.4% and 1570 Slovenian citizens aged 15-29 left Slovenia for good to live in another country.

Across all ages, 8191 Slovenian citizens moved from Slovenia to settle in another country in 2012. The majority went to live in Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria and Croatia. Some however, decided to go as far as Australia. In 2012, there were around 100 persons of Slovenian background who settled here.

Moving to Australia

"I paid a migration agent in Slovenia $4000 to organise my visa for Australia. After six months, he is asking me to pay another $1900. I don't have the money. I am on a tourist visa and not allowed to work."

There are too many stories of this kind. Some Slovenians who do not speak English well or do not feel confident enough to tackle the difficulties of migration themselves somewhat naively think they could move to Australia, find a well paid job and live here happily ever after. There is only this issue of work permit and visa which will surely get solved, they think, even if they have no idea how.

In Slovenia, migration agents organise seminars where they present different ways of moving to Australia. Not all migration agents are dishonest, of course. But there are some who see here an excellent opportunity to fleece naive would-be-migrants by blinding them with the promise of beautiful life in Australia. They charge large amounts of money for a service that anyone can in fact get for free.

There are situations where migration agent's assistance can be invaluable but before making any payments please check their credentials. In Australia, migration agents MUST be registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority. It is ILLEGAL to give advice on migration to Australia without being registered with the Office. You can check whether your agent is registered by checking the Office of MARA website at and selecting Find a Registered Migration Agent.

Registered migration agents are bound by the Code of Conduct and cannot charge you for services they can't provide.

Alternatively, anyone can take a really good look at the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection website ( and find all answers about visas and settling in Australia there for free. Before hiring somebody please research thoroughly their website and see whether you really need anyone to help you. If your occupation is on the skill shortages list, the Australian Government may actually INVITE you to apply for a visa that will allow you to work legally in Australia.