I entered the investment migration industry way back in 1992. I guess you could say I am one of the veterans in this industry. I have, over the years, many times seen situations that made me think the industry was coming to an end. And yet, it survived and flourished. However, having seen what has happened in regards to accepting Russians in most of the countries involved in investment migration is making me fear that this really is the point where it is coming to an end.
I must say first that I am biased. I lived in Russia for 25 years; my child was born in Russia (I will get back to this point later), and most of my clients are Russian. I also oppose violence in every form, instigated by any country against their own people or against other people. I am against violence when western countries get involved in the multitude of wars that they tend to get into all the time, and I am against it when the same thing happens anywhere around the world.
The whole idea of investment migration is about awarding global citizenship to those people who, because of the circumstances of their birth, do not have the same advantages as those who were born in other places. Evening the playing field, so to speak.
There are many types of immigration – beyond the investment-based immigration programs we deal with – that can meet that need: Skilled worker programs, refugee schemes, and so on. The principal difference between investment immigration and other categories of immigration (beyond the investment itself) is that investor migrants are subject to due diligence to an extent that goes far beyond what is the case for other categories of immigrants.
With that in mind, I would like to draw attention to the ongoing plight of investor migrants from Russia. Since the beginning of the events in Ukraine, bureaucrats in certain countries got it into their minds that the Russian people should be punished for the actions of their government. Russians are being punished in every way that these bureaucrats can dream up. From influencing companies to deny access to consumer goods to all Russian people to denying Russians access to international financial markets, including simply freezing assets of people purely based on their place of birth, they are trying to make things as bad as possible for the Russians
One of the means some bureaucrats conceived of to make life more difficult for Russians is to deny freedom of movement. These people are only concerned with Western Europe as the United States and Canada have not changed their immigration policy regarding Russians in any way. I am assuming that the thought behind this is that if some Russians are denied access to some Western countries, they, in turn, would somehow try to influence their government to change its policies.
This idea is absurd.
These same bureaucrats have, for some reason, also decided that denying a bunch of Russians Caribbean citizenship might change the course of events in Ukraine. I cannot think of a more ridiculous proposition.
Worst of all, these bureaucrats don’t seem to care who they hurt. By denying the Caribbean the income Russian citizenship applicants would otherwise generate, they are depriving the countries of resources that help pay for infrastructure, pensions, and other much-needed programs.
Unfortunately, the Caribbean CIPs have been put in the unenviable position of having to fall in line with the demands of the bigger countries or face sanctions themselves. They are told, curiously, that somehow anybody born in Russia is now a danger to nothing less than the world order. This includes Russian scientists, artists, kindergarten teachers, and any other law-abiding citizen born in Russia.
The pressure levied has reached such a degree that many of the Caribbean countries are forced not to accept Canadians, Americans, or Europeans who are not even Russian citizens just because they were born in Russia.
My son, for example.
He is a Canadian citizen born in Russia to parents who are both Canadian citizens. He is not a Russian citizen, nor are my wife and I Russian citizens. He just happened to be born in Moscow because I was working there at the time, managing, among other things, a real estate company that was being financed by OPIC, an overseas financing arm of the US Treasury.
I realized, just the other day, that he would not be eligible to apply for Caribbean citizenship. This despite his parents having received citizenship through the CIP. My son has actually spent the vast majority of his life in the Caribbean, going to school here. But because he has a Russian birth certificate, he is ineligible to even apply to join us in our citizenship.
This is now very personal, which is why I decided to write this article. I don’t blame any of the countries for doing what they are essentially being forced to do. I do blame the big countries for their insensitivity and, what I would say, borders on racism.
Regrettably, I believe this is only the beginning. The big countries want to close down the CIPs. I have commented many times about this already. I am afraid the fact that it was so easy to strong-arm the CIP countries to exclude Russians and Belarusians will give those bureaucrats the confidence they need to simply go all the way and bring about the closure of CIPs altogher.
To conclude, all I can say is, watch out; the investment migration industry is at a very sad crossroads, and its very existence is under threat.
Nuri Katz has opened and run a wide range of companies throughout his career but is perhaps best known today for founding Apex Capital Partners, a leading service provider in the investment migration market.