Mark Welch is an Australian migration agent and the director of Cargil Migration Consulting, based in Edinburgh, UK. He offers Australian immigration services to individuals, investors, business owners and corporations.
“I work on the basis of assess, advise and assist,” says Welch. “I assess what your options are, advise you on your eligibility and pathways available to you, and assist you with any visa applications.”
How and why did you get involved in the investment immigration industry?
My first investment client for Australia was a couple who owned a portfolio of residential properties in the UK. They moved to Queensland, having invested $750,000 AUD in Queensland Treasury Bonds. It was rewarding to manage a client from initial consultation, preparing and lodging the application with them and ultimately visa approval. It was a great introduction into both the assessment and application process.
What is it like working in this industry?
It’s a huge challenge, but highly rewarding. There is ever-changing legislation and visa categories. The investor space doesn’t really stay still for too long, COVID or not.
The clients I have assisted have been great. They can be demanding but that is expected. They are successful investors or business owners and they want to get it right. It’s been exciting to get to know them, understand the obstacles they have had in their careers, learn about their backgrounds and the pathways they have taken to obtain success and what they hope to achieve in Australia. Most of my investor and business owner clients have been from the UK, Ireland and Europe, so my work travels have focused on that.
I have had the opportunity to be based in the UK, Australia and Czech Republic for work, which has been great. I enjoy traveling for work and pleasure. I am hopeful that, once the world gets back to some kind of normality, I will be able to get to India and other parts of Asia.
What are some current trends you are seeing in the RCBI industry globally?
My attention is mainly on Australia, so I have remained primarily focused on that. I can see a swing to countries that have a focus on visa holders wanting, or being required, to live there as part of its conditions or to obtain permanent residency and ultimately citizenship, especially given the restrictions on travel that have been in place in the last 12 to 18 months and the fact that we don’t quite know what lays ahead. People may have to find somewhere that they are willing to settle in for a while.
I am certainly hopeful that Australia is seen as an ideal place to do that—especially for people with children, looking for a stable and heathy place for investment, business and general lifestyle, and education opportunities.
What are some current trends you are seeing with Australia’s program and its investors?
There already have been changes as of July 1, 2021, so any trends will start to be implemented over the upcoming months. The entry level investor visa was the acquisition of state/territory bonds for 4 years. It started out at $750,000 AUD and then increased to $1.5 million AUD. This has now been replaced by a visa which requires a higher investment level, but across areas such as venture capital and emerging businesses. With these changes, we are likely to see greater regulation of the investments too, under the Australian Security and Investments Commission (ASIC).
How do you think the pandemic has impacted the global RCBI industry?
It has certainly slowed things down in the short term. Although the mid to long-term effects are to be seen, interest and demand are growing again for Australia. I can certainly see it returning to what it was. What countries will benefit most from this remains to be seen.
Interestingly, despite the travel restrictions Australia has had during COVID, investor and business visa holders have been able to enter Australia. This is probably a reflection of the government’s view of their importance to the economy in the short term and beyond.
Has there been any recent changes to Australia’s program?
Australia has announced some changes to its investor and business program. The program has effectively been reduced from seven visas and/or streams to four as of July 1, 2021.
The removals have included the two streams of the permanent resident Business Talent Visa, one of which was the Venture Capital stream of $1 million AUD. It also removed the Premium Investment Visa option, which required an investment of $15 million for one year before applicants could apply for permanent residency.
Now, a business owner option remains for those that have a background in running their own business and plan to establish or purchase a business in Australia. The investor visa options include people who are able to make complying investments of $2.5 million or $5 million. The $2.5m investor visa pathway has replaced the previous investor visa, which required applicants to invest in $1.5 million in a four-year state/treasury bond.
Investment aside, the difference in these two visas is the time required for the main applicant to reside in Australia to obtain permanent residency.
What is your take on the importance of cryptocurrency in this industry?
For Australia, it’s pretty simple. It’s just not accepted as an eligible investment. The reason for this is that digital currency, such as Bitcoin, is not regulated under Australian Security and Investments Commission (ASIC), and therefore won’t be accepted as a way to transfer funds for the investments required. When we see ASIC move, and other countries too, we will be more likely to see this incorporated into immigration policy and investor visas.
Why do you think global mobility is important these days?
It’s difficult to say, given what we are going through, how global mobility will be viewed going forward. It will always be important, but it is likely to be affected, and vaccine passports will probably play a big part in visa approval.
Having been in the corporate global mobility area when working at Deloitte in Australia and the Czech Republic, it will be interesting to see how corporate policies react to what has been happening. Global mobility was certainly affected by the global financial crisis in the late 2000s. Plenty of expats were caught out by the crisis. Their visas were cut short due to job losses, and many couldn’t stay in Australia despite their hopes to remain permanently. We have seen the same outcome with COVID. Australia has focused on visas for temporary residents already in the country, whilst it has been closed during COVID.
Going forward, this may mean countries that find a way up to open up safely and sooner than others may entice these skilled migrants, as well as the investment that they bring both individually and through the businesses that they work with.
Similarly, those that have been planning a move, either temporarily or permanently, will be motivated by what has been happening and start to act on those plans as soon as they can. It is likely that despite its recent challenges, Australia will still be seen as a safe and stable country in which to live and invest, so there will be demand.
Why did you decide to join our community and what has it done for your business?
I have been involved with Uglobal for a few years now. It’s been a great way to keep on top of what migrants’ concerns are about investor and business visas. It has enabled me to commence a relationship with them on different levels ranging from practical issues like the timing of visas and how COVID has affected things, to personal issues around relationships—including their family, as well as purely technical issues relating to qualifying investments or the application process.
It has been a positive experience, and Uglobal has been open and responsive to any questions and support that I have required.
What is your favorite quote and why?
The one that seems most apt at this point in time is credited to Mike Tyson: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
My first boss in immigration said to me that this industry could end overnight if the governments decided to close their borders. It has been the best part of 20 years, but we have seen this happen in most countries over the last 12 months. COVID has been that punch in the mouth. The world will open up again, so it’s time for people to consider another plan, and for advisers like us to assist them with whatever the new immigration world looks like over the coming years.
What are your top destinations in the world and why?
I have two favorite parts of the world. Outside Australia, I love Italy. I first went over 25 years ago but I have been there regularly since. I got engaged at the Trevi Fountain in 2001. In 2002, when I got married, we had our honeymoon in Rome and Sardinia. I especially enjoy Tuscany; the warm weather in the summer, the food and drink, the generosity of the people, the history and the focus on family.
Otherwise, I love the New South Wales coast, especially around Jervis Bay and Northern NSW. I spent many a year camping in Jervis Bay with my parents and brothers, mainly sailing and surfing, sharing the experience with other families. The beaches in Jervis Bay have some of the whitest sand in the world. The surf at Summercloud Bay can also be incredible. The other place I have spent a lot of time is in Northern NSW, where my extended family live. I love the warm summer days and evenings, the water temperatures, great beaches and waves. Plus, it’s not too far from southeast Queensland. There aren’t many better places to spend Christmas holidays in Australia than on the beach in that part of the country.
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