Here to discuss the implications of Brexit on immigration law, the challenges of residency requirements, and the implementation of citizenship programmes, is Micha-Rose Emmett, Managing Director at CS Global Partners, an international, industry-leading, award-winning legal advisory firm specialising in citizenship and residence solutions.
What are the hottest talking points surrounding UK / EU immigration and residency at the moment, particularly surrounding the Brexit decision?
The issue of Brexit and the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union has placed a lot of focus on immigration and what will happen to freedom of movement. At present, there is no clear-cut answer to the issue at hand – we can only wait and see what agreement will be made between the UK and the EU. What has emerged, however, is that more and more EU and UK nationals are starting to consider and wish to better understand the concept of dual citizenship. Pre-Brexit, when you spoke with people with a British passport about their citizenship, they did not appreciate the need for diversification of citizenship. The referendum has generated a new awareness of dual citizenship.
You work predominantly in citizenship planning matters pertaining to High Net Worth individuals; what are the biggest legal challenges this niche faces today and how do you help your clients overcome these?
The challenges depend on each jurisdiction’s appetite to introduce an investment programme. The entire immigration landscape is shifting, and citizenship by investment has become more popular because it is a clear and distinct way of creating a win-win solution. From a government stance, the nation is receiving foreign direct investment and human capital. From a client’s perspective, second citizenship can mean freedom, security, and physical safety. Our goal as advisors is to ensure we understand the client’s needs and that the solution they choose fits those needs adequately. One key factor is being able to assess long-term benefits. Clients may have researched matters superficially, or chosen a solution based on incorrect information. They may also opt for what seems an obvious solution on paper, but is daunting in practice. This is why those who are deciding whether to undertake the path to second citizenship need expert advice from a team that is highly knowledgeable and equipped to handle a wide range of options. In this way, their advisors will be able to give them the best advice based on client needs rather than purely on the laws of the one jurisdiction they are based in.
As a thought leader in this field, how are you currently working towards further exploring and confronting the legal challenges of residency and immigration in the UK?
The UK Government’s general position with regards to immigration does make it more challenging to attract people, especially high-skilled workers (this independent immigration category was closed down in 2009), into the country. Firstly, residency requirements are quite strenuous. To become a resident and then work towards citizenship you would need to not be absent from the country for more than 450 days over a 5-year period, and for more than 90 days in the 12 months preceding your application for citizenship. You would also have to be able to speak English and pass the ‘life in the UK’ test. On the one hand, someone who is committing to becoming a citizen of a country should expect these requirements. At the same time however, it can make the process look daunting and unappealing, especially because people have become more global and have less time to spend in one jurisdiction to fulfil its residence requirements. Top international businesspeople find it especially hard to become UK immigrants. This hampers the UK’s goal of attracting people of excellent talent and entrepreneurial skill.
Are there particular regulations/directives that are often an obstacle in this line of work and how do you overcome them daily?
There are no particular regulations or directives that pose insurmountable problems. In any field, whether it is law, immigration, business, or banking, an expert should be able to discover ways to work within the guidelines and parameters established by the relevant government to find an effective solution for his/her clients. In this line of work, there are certainly more opportunities than obstacles.
You have previously coordinated citizenship programmes and projects alongside the government; what did this entail and what was the impact?
The expertise that we bring to the table involves working with clients from all around the world. We have a deep understanding of various needs in different countries. This helps governments to create programmes that are attractive to their target applicant pool – that is, talented and skilled individuals. The key is to always ensure the programme yields a win-win situation, so that the government and the people of a country experience positive returns when awarding citizenship to new investors.
Having also practised this legal work in UAE, African countries, the Caribbean, and Asia, how would you say residency issues differ significantly and what advantages does the UK’s legal framework have over these other nations?
The number one factor is that the United Kingdom has a Common Law system that provides a very sound legal framework in which to work. The same can be said for some of the other countries whose programmes we evaluate, particularly in the Caribbean.
Following the Brexit vote, in the UK we have felt a sense of “keep calm and carry on.” It is important that in the coming months the Government presents thought-through solutions, especially as we move forward in a climate filled with uncertainty, but with a future we need to continue to build and support.