As a Business and Law Graduate, Bilal Zahoor has been advising on immigration matters of UK, USA, Canada, Australia and Europe to Pakistani and Middle East Clients. He started his immigration law practice in 2010 and now runs his own brand as “M.I.S Legal (Migration & Investment Services)”. In the last 10 years of his practice, Bilal Zahoor has assisted more than 900 clients in Immigration / Visa Applications. His specialty includes (but is not limited to) Skilled Migration, Business Immigration, Investment Immigration, Visa Appeals, visa Refusal Matters, Visa Cancellation Cases, Deportation Cases, and Family Immigration etc. He has also been an active participant in various immigration conferences around the globe and has prepared various reports / presentations on immigration issues. His latest works were recognized at “Cornell University – USA”, Marquette University – USA and “University of Manitoba – Canada where he was called for a presentation in Migration Conferences.

In this interview with Bilal Zahoor, he shares with us his thoughts

  1. How would you describe the state of the investment immigration industry today?

The investment immigration industry seems to have taken over all other categories of immigration in the last decade. This was mainly due to eligibility criteria for skilled and employer sponsored migration going tougher and tougher leaving only limited people as qualifying for skilled migration. Those, who were easily able to get direct permanent residence in Australia and Canada with four year university education, 3 years of work experience and with age under 35 years, are now struggling with skilled migration for these countries due to high points requirement. In the MENA and the Sub-Continent, there is huge young population of such qualified and highly experienced professionals who wish to move to developed countries in order to contribute with their skills there but skilled migration or employer sponsored migration seem to have closed doors to them. UK had already closed its HSMP/Tier 1 (General) in the beginning of this decade and USA has never had a points-based skilled immigration program. Denmark was the only EU country that had a points-based green card program for skilled workers but it too closed it in 2016. Hence, wherever our skilled workers could have gone (as skilled migrants) were only Australia and Canada in the last 4-5 years and when these countries too started becoming impossible, it was investment immigration that everyone started to rely upon. Hence, from the last 5 years, immigration aspirants have been seeking asking for investment immigration options only knowing that no other category is available to him for migration from a developed country. Service providers and promoter organizations of investment immigration (such as Investment Migration Council) then took remarkable initiatives to make investment immigration an industry which not only gave the service provider some confidence in recognition of their work but also clients started taking this migration route more seriously.

Initially, the business migration programs of UK, USA, Australia and Canada were believed in and clients showed interest in these countries only. Hence, there were always several clients coming in for the UK’s Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Program, the US E2 Visa, the Canadian Entrepreneur Programs and the Australian Business Innovation and Investment Visas. Europe (especially eastern Europe) then started to invite small investors and between 2012 to 2016 countries like Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic and Poland invited scores of small businessmen to establish themselves in these countries as temporary business permit holders. Then came the premium investment programs, called passport programs which involved great promotion from Canada (Quebec Investor Program), USA (EB5 Visa), Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Hungary with their Real Estate and/or Govt Bonds purchase programs and not to mention the Caribbean countries that offered straight passport programs with lesser investment requirements than the EU countries. These so many options which came one after the after immediately boosted the interest of clients and this is another reason of their disinterest in skilled migration. This was because these newly introduced investment immigration programs had much straighter and simple pathways with very little or no question on applicants’ age, English language ability, education or field of work experience and therefore all that an applicant needed to qualify for these programs was financial ability. Those, who did have the required financial ability for their choicest country, smoothly sailed through these programs and they are enjoying their Permanent Residence or Passport status in their chosen country.

The investment immigration industry is therefore seeing the time of its life being one of the easiest and quickest pathways for immigration.

  1. What do you think the wealth mobility demands of HNWIs in MENA?

MENA region is popular to have been populated by highly skilled or highly rich individuals. The highly skilled ones came from countries like mine (i.e. Pakistan) or its close and distant neighbours like India, Iran, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, China, Afghanistan etc. the MENA region saw its time of great developments from 1080s till the start of this decade and then came the time of new policies and practices in the MENA countries. These included mainly the tax policies (in the UAE) and the local-first employment preference (in Saudi Arabia) which made the expats in this region to think of a further move from MENA to some other part of the world. Going back to their respective countries was never an option because they wouldn’t find same employment or living status back there and hence moving forward only remained to be an option. Those, who had brought their wealth into MENA countries for business OR those who made wealth while working in the MENA, now wish to move their monies also into further developed countries because the MENA region is said to have become expensive to live and and/or do business in and sending money to their home countries is also not an option because the economies in the above-mentioned countries are themselves struggling. Investment Immigration therefore turned out to be an immediate and ultimate resort to the wealthy (or highly skilled) expats in the MENA and lots of experienced professionals and entrepreneurs are moving out of MENA into various western countries with their money. The western countries not only find them a peaceful abode rather a permanent route towards immigration therefore making a one-time difficult decision (of going away from the settled lives of MENA countries) no more sounds challenging.

  1. How do you see the industry evolving over the next 5 years?

The industry will flourish as long as no other competing immigration pathway comes up, which looks very difficult in given economical and political situations in the popular immigration destination countries. Every developed country does not seem to easily allow an immigrant to come in but with his own wealth and to create something for the locals of these countries to find employment in. Immigration aspirants’ interest in Investment Immigration Programs will therefore continue and so will the importance and activities of Investment Immigration industry. We expect to seem more investment immigration pathways opening in the MENA region as well as in the EU countries in the next 5 years making the work of investment immigration promoters and services providers more comprehensive and busier.

Bilal Zahoor

Bilal Zahoor

Managing Director, MIS Legal

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