Opinion

Active Investor Visas: 5 Lessons to Ensure Profitability and Client Satisfaction


The pillars keep on falling for residence and citizenship by investment programs. Cyprus’ CIP, Portugal’s Golden Visa, Vanuatu’s much-maligned program, Bulgaria’s “fast-track citizenship” program, and the investor visas of the UK and Ireland; all have either closed, are about to close, or have been neutered. 

Investment migration has been taking hit after hit for a while now, and there is little to indicate the main antagonist, the European Commission, is slowing down. A Terminator-esque tenacity to destroy any semblance of passive investment immigration has left its mark, and now hundreds of immigration consultancy firms are left to ponder what’s next. 

The good news is there is an alternative. It doesn’t look pretty, isn’t as easy, and requires heavy lifting. But get it right, and you’ve got it made. I speak, of course, about active investor visas.

Active investment migration – or as many call it, business migration – is the overlooked route of obtaining a residence permit, usually temporary with more restrictive conditions than, let’s say, a golden visa. It requires that an applicant establish – or intend to establish – a business in a country to qualify for a residence permit. It also usually requires that they reside and manage their business to maintain their status, qualify for permanent residence, and eventually naturalize through the long and tedious traditional route. 

I told you it wasn’t pretty, but it may be all we’ve got sooner than later.

But there is a silver lining; offering active investment visas is simpler than you might think; you need to understand the core principles that make them a solid cornerstone of your business.

When I first came into investment migration, I was tasked with developing business immigration programs. I thought, “Neat; I get all the top destinations like Canada, the UK, and Australia.” A few months later, when I saw what my golden visa and CIP colleagues were doing, I understood I got the short end of the straw.

But fast forward three years, and active investment migration visas came to me as simple as swimming comes to a fish, and it was down to one reason: everything has to make sense. 

Every country wants to attract more entrepreneurs. They want to let you in. It just has to make sense. The business, the destination, and the applicant must all align to form a sensible and feasible application.

When I took that premise to heart, active investment visas became simple. Then I began understanding who they do and do not work for and how to profit from them.

Alas, I was eventually pulled back into the realm of passive investments, funds, properties, and passport rankings. But that passion for active investment programs remains, and I want to share the five most important lessons I learned: you need to know if push comes to shove and you need to shift your business model.

Lesson one: Find your niche

CIP and golden visa clients won’t typically go for active investment visas. These people make money where they already live, often from passive sources, and usually don’t want to relocate physically.

It’s the business people you want: Entrepreneurs who thrive on growing their businesses and who are at a relatively early stage of building their empires. Those hungry to play on the global stage make the best active investment migration clients. 

They are looking for the best destination for their business. So, alongside finding a new client niche, you’ll need to find the programs that might entice them. Unlike passive investment migration programs, active visas are plentiful, and almost every country on Earth has a mechanism to attract foreign entrepreneurs. 

Another good option is finding countries with regulations that allow you to target family businesses. A small to medium family business makes an ideal target audience, as you can safely assume one family member is “over it” and wants to immigrate elsewhere. By opening a branch or subsidiary of the business overseas, they can expand their operations while getting far away from all the family drama. 

But even if more than one family member has their eye on a new home, you can find destinations with the required framework that allows you to migrate more than one person under the same business, giving your coffers a nice boost. 

The Netherlands is a great example here. An investor can immigrate through a self-employed visa and then bring in family members who are already part of the mother company as highly skilled migrants with the specialized knowledge needed to run the business.

The E2 Visa is another prime example. An investor, a manager, and an essential worker can obtain an E2 visa. The same logic as in the Netherlands applies here, and you can charge multiple office fees for the work of just one investment. 

Another vital point to consider is that active visa clients may not have as much money as traditional RCBI investors but are more numerous. This is because most active investment visas require lower capital outlays than passive-investment programs. Many of these programs also don’t require that applicants put up the investment themselves, instead allowing them to acquire external funding. 

You can grow your client base swiftly by creating a solid network of angel investors and venture capitalists. You need the right people and a suitable destination. 

A certain degree of marketing flexibility is also required. A new client pool can pop up anywhere at any time. Firms should focus on global inflation rates, currency fluctuations, country purchasing power, and similar factors to know where and who to target with their campaigns as entrepreneurs look to save their business instead of expanding it. 

Lesson two: learn to draft immigration-friendly business plans

I’ve come to learn that there are two types of responses when a visa requires a business plan:

  • It is easy, and we can do it in no time
  • It is a pain, and we don’t have time for it

Both statements can be factual.

Drafting a basic business plan is easy. You can get one on Fiverr within a couple of days. But a standard business plan won’t work under an immigration program (most of the time). But that doesn’t mean it is a complex process either; it’s just different.

Immigration business plans need to highlight the feasibility and sustainability of a business. But the emphasis isn’t so much on profitability (like when sending it to investors) but on the business’s positive impact on the country’s economy.

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Economic added value under active investment visas primarily takes one of seven forms:

  • Export 
  • Job creation
  • Enhancing research & development
  • Bringing in specialized knowledge or talent
  • Attracting new businesses
  • Servicing underdeveloped communities and regions
  • An innovative idea

The last one might sound familiar because it is the basis for many popular programs, such as the Canadian SUV and the UK Innovator Visa.

Practically every government wants to reduce unemployment, cut trade deficits, attract specialists, create business-friendly environments, and evolve industries. Understand that, and drafting a business plan for immigration is quite simple.

Lesson three: Innovate monetization schemes

Nothing can beat that sweet real estate commission. I am not about to argue with that. CIPs and golden visas are great for making money. Active investment migration programs can’t match that.

But that doesn’t mean active investment visas can’t be profitable. You just need to get creative.

One way to make commissions is by offering programs that allow applicants to acquire existing businesses. This way, you can work with business brokers in exchange for a commission on the sale. It won’t always match real estate commission rates, but it can still turn into a pretty penny.

Another way to monetize active investor visa programs is to set up an internal referral system. As your client list grows, you’ll find yourself having an impressive network of foreign businesses, many of which are B2B services. When a new business comes in, connect it to your network in exchange for referral fees. Again, not much, but it adds up.

Finally (and this is the way I believe counts): Offering needed services to your clients. Finding them office space, registering them with business incubator programs (when not a requirement), recruitment, and even handling their marketing can be a way to make more money from a file.

Take marketing activities as a prime example. One person can manage the social media accounts for various companies, and most RCBI firms have a squad of marketers on their team. Offer clients to handle their marketing for a recurring payment by explaining that your superior knowledge about the destination can help them get their business off the ground. If you find the right balance between resource allocation and profitability, active investment visas become much more interesting.

Even better is not requesting recurring payments at all. Help clients set up their businesses, but go further and help with design and branding, recruitment, marketing, business consulting, corporate tax advisory, and corporate networking in exchange for a small percentage of equity. This will only work when you have the expertise and experience needed to analyze a potential business in a new country. Still, if you get it right, you’ve got a continuous flow of semi-passive income that could trump any commission you’d get from a property sale. Presuming you actually believe in the business’s prospects, of course.

Or, instead of doing all that work, the best way would be to invest in those businesses yourself. You have a front-row ticket to a parade of expanding companies and bright entrepreneurs.

Monetization is more fluid under active investment visas; all it requires is a bit of work and a lot of creativity.

Lesson four: Streamline your internal processes

The issue with active investment visas is that they require various moving parts, which often have to act in tandem to ensure profitability. If they don’t, an application can get stuck on a desk for a long time, becoming cost rather than profit.

You want to maintain that efficiency that comes naturally to passive investment migration programs, but unlike CIPs and golden visas, the client isn’t the only bottleneck you may face.

Streamlining your operations and using a solid project management system will help you complete applications quickly and efficiently. The more experienced your team gets, the faster the process.

Most countries have quick processing times for active investment visas, so your goal is to match or beat that time so that you can take on more clients.

Active investment visas become very profitable when you work with many clients. It is feasible if you have a set of standard operating procedures and everyone knows when and how to do their job. 

Seek out potential bottlenecks and gaps in the process and remedy them, and once you’ve got a well-oiled machine, strive to maintain and enhance its quality and output.

Lesson five: Hire the right people

Most RCBI firms I have seen have one goal: To sell. That means focusing on sales efficiency, which leads to the typical salesperson’s recruitment. It’s not right or wrong; it is how the process works.

But active investment visas require something different. Firms must find the right balance on the efficacy-flexibility spectrum that allows them to thrive.

You’ll need a team of people who can think outside of the box but also grind when needed. You’ll need problem solvers and people with the expertise to develop new programs and services, but you also need those methodical enough to process them.

Defining and understanding your target group, what they need, how you’ll profit, and how you will operate will help you design the team that can handle the workload and elevates your firm. 

Recruitment is typically overlooked in investment migration because passive investment programs are so simple that the process dictates how a person does their job. Active investment visas are a different beast, and you’ll need the right team to tame it. 

The last resort?

Firms don’t have to wait for the EU to end all of its golden visas or for the Caribbean to find massive oil reserves and close up shop to shift onto active investment visas. Passive investments are much easier to deal with and make for more straightforward profit channels. 

But that doesn’t mean a firm can’t prepare for the worst, and understanding the options available is the first step in that process. Look into active investment visas, and give them some thought; you may need to offer them one day. 

Active Investor Visa Programs:

Ahmad Abbas AdministratorAuthorSubscriberParticipant
Director of Content Services , Investment Migration Insider

Ahmad Abbas is Director of Content Services at Investment Migration Insider and an 8-year veteran of the investment migration industry.

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