The changing face of immigration
It doesn’t take a political pundit to know that the immigration process is going through a sea change. From the hypothetical wall to Brexit, it may seem like there’s never been more restrictions on free movement. Despite this, though, some forms of immigration have thrived in the last few years – and one that’s quickly on the rise is investment-based immigration.
Over $21 billion have been invested into these programs around the world, which is why immigration and investment experts from around the world came together to discuss the phenomenon at the CNBC-TV18 Global Investment Immigration Summit. Presented by Nysa Global, the event provided guidance on investment-based immigration to North American and European nations, in addition to expert insight into the trends, regulations, challenges and risks that surround it.
It’s nearly impossible to discuss the factors driving countries to open their doors to high net worth immigrants without acknowledging the role of foreign direct investment (FDI). Though FDI is important for every nation, it accounts for 49.96% and 27.65% of Cyprus and Malta’s GDP*, respectively. It’s hardly a coincidence that both countries allow people to acquire citizenships through investment. However, even countries where FDI doesn’t constitute a major chunk of their GDP are looking to it as a growth strategy. Arbinder Pal from Global Affairs Canada noted that FDI is an invaluable part of the North American nation’s plans.
Despite this, though, recent and impending developments like increasing investment thresholds and the ambiguity surrounding Brexit have posed a whole new set of questions. These were among the topics up for discussion at the evening’s first panel, featuring Mitch Wexler, Partner, Fragomen; Bernard Wolfsdorf, Immigration Attorney, Wolfsdorf Rosenthal; Kelvin Tanner, Senior Manager, Fragomen; Linda Sweeney, Senior Advisor, Nysa Global; and Darwin Forer, Vice President, ReDev Properties.
“Europe is open for business,” said Sweeney, who highlighted that some of the world’s top pharma, industrial automation, software, financial services, medical technology and gaming firms now have operations in Ireland. And while Ireland has the advantage of being an English-speaking nation, fellow European countries like Spain, Portugal and Greece are quickly capturing the attention of upwardly mobile professionals. In fact, Portugal’s investment-based immigration program had more applications than the USA last year!
That doesn’t mean that the USA’s popularity is waning, though – the sky-high number of applications to their EB-5 program only appears to be growing. Meanwhile, Quebec in neighbouring Canada offers all the joys of North American life at a much shorter waiting period. And though each of these nations have only one investment immigration program, Tanner highlighted that the UK also offers more affordable innovator and start-up visas, in addition to conventional investment-based residence.
An investment-based immigration is a lot of things, but at heart, it is exactly that – an investment; and every rewarding investment comes with a degree of risk. This was the subject of a second panel, featuring Sonali Pradhan, Head of Wealth Planning, Julius Baer; Chris Foulger, President of HomeFed Corporation; Andrew Parish, Chief Commercial Officer, IDLF; and Pankaj Joshi, Managing Director, Nysa Global.
“It’s really about capital preservation,” said Foulger, emphasising that the return on these investments is the green card or its equivalent. Echoing his sentiments, all the panelists agreed that it’s best to consult experts and do your due diligence before you invest your money overseas. Parish stressed the need for an evaluation of strategic, financial and operational risk before any drastic steps are taken, while Pradhan highlighted parameters to examine, such as the nature of the projects invested in, industry trends, scalability and transparency.
Most of all, though, it’s important to have a clear objective and roadmap before you make such a crucial decision. “You must give yourself enough lead time,” advised Pankaj Joshi, adding that it’s integral to know why and for whom you’re doing this. Following his sound advice, coupled with careful planning and patience, can help you conquer the world!
*Data from 2017