Greco’s Geopolitics – With Brian Greco
With an eye to the changing world order, Brian Greco explores how individuals can get and keep global access.
The investment migration community is filled with people who love to spend a lot of time figuring out what the “best” thing is. After all, this game is all about optimizing. On one hand, this striving for excellence helps everyone, including the clients we advise, to allocate money, energy, and time spent on the ground in the right places. And this is laudable.
I am noticing, however, a tendency for people to cling to what I believe is an outdated idea: That there is one passport, one program, one country, one solution overall that can deliver you from all your mobility woes, or even get close. Here’s why this is not the right approach in 2022.
No holy grail: The world changes too fast now
The key here is that the rate of change we must now buffer against in our current geopolitical environment no longer allows for this pre-2020 mentality. In the past, life was simpler: Maybe a quick St. Kitts & Nevis passport or a Swiss bank account – coupled with summers in a favorite European spot – could do the trick for an overwhelming majority of HNWI clients. Or, maybe an easy zero tax residency solution would attract little to no attention and business could go on as usual.
That world is no more. 2020 saw the end of true “visa-free” travel, and although travel has picked up considerably in the spring of 2022, the overwhelming majority of countries still have some form of COVID-related entry requirement as I write this. The European Schengen Area is riddled, even in its recovery, with issues of inefficiency (such as the four-hour immigration line I just waited in yesterday), including also the delay in processing of visas, passports, and other regulatory matters.
Programs change: Expect it
The biggest, most obvious shake-up in recent memory is the vast restructuring of the current CBI market. Portugal’s Golden Visa program is delayed. Vanuatu’s program lost Schengen access, and Caribbean programs could be next. Bulgaria’s program closed. Montenegro’s is set to expire. The list goes on and on.
What does this mean for IM providers? Well, it doesn’t mean to pack up and go home. It just means to expect, and not be shocked by, programs changing. Offer more than one program if at all possible. Spell out the risks clearly to avoid liabilities and unhappy clients when they don’t come home with their passport six years later from just two weeks a year in the country. Help create more realistic expectations around the fact that programs always change.
No program will last forever, so this just means encouraging clients to access good options for them when the window is open rather than waiting until “it gets worse”. For example, this is a common objection I hear from Western clients who may feel their IM needs are less pressing because of their “historically stronger passports”: “I’ll wait until it gets worse.” Then they’ll finally pull the trigger on getting that Turkish home. How much worse does it need to get?
Societies change: Plan for it
Societies also change faster than ever, and this includes more than just the numbers on paper. What do people in that society believe? How do they behave under new regulations and restrictions? What standard of living can be obtained for the investor? Does conflict – whether physical or political or both – interfere with the ability to invest? Do not underestimate the importance of cultural factors in your investment decisions.
What once was a bastion of high quality of life and normalcy can quickly decay into chaos (I’m talking to you, Europe, America, and Australia). Likewise, what was once seen as “unlivable” may begin to look more and more appealing under new circumstances (yes, that’s you, Africa, Latin America, and Eurasia).
So much marketing I see is stuck in the 20th century. We live in a globalized world where – with a little planning and capital to spend – almost any formerly “off-limits” society can become an enriching safe haven in its own right for an investor looking for additional optionality. The point here is that regardless of programs, if the society someone is investing in decides to go crazy, the program can be perfect on paper but few will want to invest.
The solution: The “AND” paradigm
Okay, so there is no holy grail. Where is there hope? What is the solution? It’s simple and goes back to an old adage: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I think this classical wisdom has been lost in this industry. No one passport will ever solve your mobility issues. No one home will ever be a 100% ”safe haven” for all your assets. No one bank account will ever be able to manage all your international business needs across an increasingly fracturing, sanctions-riddled global economy.
The key here is what I call my “and” paradigm. It’s not about Asia or Latin America: it’s about Asia and Latin America. It’s not about the Caribbean or Europe: it’s about the Caribbean and Europe. It’s not about developed or developing: it’s about – you get the idea.
Not every budget will call for a “one of each” approach, of course. But this same idea can apply to various budgets and for various needs. Allocate more intelligently. Rather than pouring all assets into a formerly-neutral jurisdiction like a Switzerland, or putting all of one’s hopes in a Dominica passport to get oneself through the world, consider the following:
- Always have at least two passport pathways to a desired region of possible.
- Always have a mix of traditional and frontier markets for money and assets.
- Always have an eye toward upcoming geopolitical trends to avoid being surprised.
With these core principles in mind, we can help our clients avoid “eggs in one basket” and diversify our service offerings – a win-win-win for all.
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.