By Marie Ekberg Padilla, EB5 Investors Magazine
Investment migration pioneer Christian Kälin, the founder of Henley & Partners, knows about global migration first hand. After growing up in Switzerland, where he graduated from a local business school, he decided to explore the world by studying and live in France, United States, New Zealand, the Caribbean and United Kingdom. He studied interdisciplinary sciences before pursuing law and earning a master’s and PhD degrees in law from the University of Zurich.
“Because of my own geographic movements over the course of my life, my interests have always been in the global citizenship space,” he said. “Today, I have the privilege of advising governments and international organizations on residence and citizenship policy, as well as fulfilling occasional speaking commitments.”
This is an exciting time in investment migration, Kälin said.
“…Despite the evident challenges related to public education and understanding regarding what we do, I am very optimistic about the phase of rapid expansion and the continued growth we are experiencing,” he said.
How have you seen this industry change since its earliest days? What can we expect to see in the future?
When the first modern residence- and citizenship-by-investment programs were developed in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, the investment migration industry was largely unformed, unknown and unregulated. Today, by contrast, there is no wealth manager, tax lawyer, high-net-worth individual, international regulator, or government leader who has not heard of our industry, and the same is slowly becoming true of the general public, as reporting on and awareness of the industry increases.
The number of citizenship and residence programs has also expanded steadily, as more and more governments seek to tap into these programs’ potential to boost capital and talent inflows. The global residence- and citizenship-by-investment sectors are now established and fast-growing features of the mainstream economic landscape, rather than fringe or niche phenomena, as they used to be.
Going forward, I expect that the trend of greater global mobility -- and of greater visibility and demand for our industry -- will only increase. As long as the industry continues to adhere to high ethical standards, as our own firm uncompromisingly does, I anticipate that we will see the formation of many more residence- and citizenship-by-investment programs and that the investment migration industry as a whole will become mainstream, and better understood by the public.
What does global mobility and global citizenship mean for you?
Global mobility and global citizenship are hugely meaningful to me on both a professional and a personal level. Apart from embodying a fundamentally appropriate attitude to life in the 21st century, the decision to live as a global citizen is also a responsible one. It means recognizing that the world is changing and becoming smaller, and that if we are to live in a dynamic, integrated, and tolerant world, we need to begin thinking of ourselves less as being beholden to a single national jurisdiction and more in terms of global belonging. Global mobility and global citizenship, for me, are ultimately about freedom and responsibility.
Why are you involved in a variety of charities, such as the Andan Foundation and the Global Citizen Awards?
People sometimes assume that global citizenship is a quasi-elitist term that only refers to the ultra-wealthy who can afford to acquire a second passport. In fact, there are millions of global citizens already in the world today, and they do not all look like rich globetrotters. Anybody who has been naturalized into a second jurisdiction, or who has acquired permanent residence through asylum or refugee status, or who was born with two passports might consider themselves to be a global citizen. The challenge for our firm and for me personally, however, is to make global citizenship even more accessible. It should not be the case that only those born into privilege or only the exceedingly well off can afford to become global citizens, and we have a moral responsibility to look at global mobility holistically, across the whole economic spectrum. That is why Henley & Partners makes such an effort to partner with organizations such as the UNHCR in implementing constructive change — in places like Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp, for example.
What kind of challenges are the immigration investment programs facing in today’s world?
The current issues facing the industry are a direct result of its growth and the associated interest that that generates in the media and across independent regulatory bodies. For example, there are currently some widely publicized concerns circulating about due diligence. The challenges facing the industry when it comes to background checks and financial screening are very real and present. However, what people fail to understand is that the residence- and citizenship-by-investment industry is way ahead of the curve when it comes to screening potential clients. We understand the potential dangers intimately and we actively encourage transparency and enquiry into what the industry does so that there is less misinformation and confusion about it.
The reality is that residence- and citizenship-by-investment programs bring massive economic and social benefits to host nations for the relatively small cost of naturalizing or assigning residence to a strictly vetted selection of highly qualified candidates. In many ways, the biggest challenge facing the industry today is the lack of education among the general public. Rather than blame the public for this knowledge gap, though, we must take full responsibility for it and seek to address it ourselves if we wish to change the situation. This is part of the broader project of the Investment Migration Council, which we helped found a few years ago.
What is Henley’s role with Moldova’s CBI program? Has it started to accept applicants yet?
As part of a consortium with the Moldovan Investment Company, Henley & Partners took part in an open bid to design and promote the Moldova Citizenship-by-Investment program. The firm’s role is to provide technical and marketing support, and to advise on best-in-class due diligence and ‘know your client’ procedures.
The program officially launches at the 12th Henley & Partners Global Residence and Citizenship Conference, taking place in Dubai this November. After the official launch, the program will start to accept the first applicants.
What is unique about Moldova’s program compared to other CBI programs?
For many clients, given Moldova’s location and status as a European country, it has an in-built advantage over many other countries offering citizenship. Another key advantage is the fact that Moldovan citizenship can be transferred to clients’ children without the hassle and costs that are sometimes associated with some of the Caribbean programs. Moldova also issues its citizens with biometric passports and has a very straightforward and well-thought-out application process, in keeping with the highest industry standards. Finally, the program is reasonably priced, which gives it an edge over other programs in Europe.
What are some things investors should be aware of when applying for the Moldova program?
The new Moldova program offers a very robust set of advantages for investors. It offers applicants full citizenship and passport rights, with the option of including dependent children up to 29 years of age as well as parents. The citizenship is also transferable to future generations without restrictions and offers passport-holders access to 122 destinations, including Russia, Turkey, and the countries in Europe’s Schengen Area. For entrepreneurs and business travelers looking for a foothold in Europe, Moldovan citizenship is very well worth considering. The fact that the Moldovan passport has risen 20 places on the Henley Passport Index since 2008 also indicates that the government is becoming increasingly integrated with the rest of the world and is testament to the country’s ambition to prioritize growth and expansion.
What kind of impact or benefit will Moldova’s program have on the country, financially or in other ways?
For the people of Moldova, as for the people of other investment migration host nations, the launch of the program will have a very positive effect on their lives. The liquidity stream generated by the Moldova program will translate into tangible societal value by contributing to developments in local infrastructure and education, similar to the social benefits enjoyed by citizens of Malta, Grenada, Dominica, and other nations with strong citizenship-by-investment offerings.