Harvey Law Takes Golden Visas Off Shelf, Turns Focus to Startup/Entrepreneur Programs

Harvey Law Group’s global managing partner, Jean-François Harvey, tells IMI his firm is phasing out of the golden visa market, opting instead to focus on startup and entrepreneur visas, a category of immigration that, he points out, adds more value to the destination economy – and his firm.

Firms can “phase out” golden visas too

“We’re going to phase out totally from golden visa offers and to concentrate on startup visas. Portugal, France, the UK – since last week – are now all offering startup visa options that are quite valid and bring a “plus value” to those countries. So, we’re more comfortable with that,” Harvey told IMI on the sidelines of the Investment Immigration Summit in Ho Chi Minh City this month.

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The reason for exiting the $13 billion-a-year golden visa market, he explains, is quite simple; it attracts one-time buyers, rather than the long term client relationships he prefers.

“Startup visa clients become our clients for the long term. It’s not a one-shot deal. Once somebody gets a golden visa, we never hear from them again. Startup visa clients, by definition, are people that will be calling upon our service for years to come, either for incorporation or for their corporate or legal needs, etc.,” says Harvey, pointing out that this type of client adds more value both to his own company and to the country to which the client relocates.

Hard to argue against politically

Questioned as to whether he believes startup and entrepreneur visas are more politically palatable than the currently embattled golden visas, Harvey responds categorically.

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“I don’t think there’s any comparison. You’re talking about people moving to the country, definitely investing in the country, coming up with new ideas, innovative ideas, under the startup visa […] I don’t think anybody will be able to complain about this,” he postulates, quickly adding rhetorically “but who knows?”

Harvey comments that he has never been comfortable with the in-and-out nature of golden visa client relationships.

More work, sure, but more fees too

“The type of client that golden visas attract is not necessarily the type of client we want. It adds very little value to us and very little value to the country.”

Echoing the sentiments of Paul Girodo – see Golden Visas May Be On Their Way Out – Here’s What Will Replace Them – Harvey indicates this could be the beginning of a trend, not merely among investment migration companies, but also for countries seeking foreign investment.

“I think a lot of countries are looking at what happened with the startup visa in Canada, and the success of it […] I think that, definitely, that will increasingly be the approach adopted by most countries, as seen with the UK last week. […] We’ve had a lot of conversations with Portuguese government representatives, and this is what they’re looking for. They’re beginning to see the problem of having empty apartments and villas all over the place; it was nice to get the investment, but it’s not a big plus for the economy.”

Considering the more hands-on nature of launching and running a startup, Harvey admits this will mean getting into an entirely different business, involving services like the crafting of business plans and financial assessment, but points out that this is precisely what he wants.

“Yes, it will be more work, and therefore more fees too, right?” states Harvey with a cunning smile.

Watch the full interview below:

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