By Salman Siddiqui
Migration industry professionals across Europe are expecting a surge in inquiries from Ukrainians following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, even though the window to seek investment immigration options abroad are nearing a close as several Western countries were forced to closed their consulates in capital Kiev as the military conflict escalates by the hour.
Migration agent Nicky Gouder, a partner at the Seed Consultancy in Malta, said he is already seeing an increase in queries.
“Yes, we have already seen an increase in demand from Eastern European countries in understanding what options Malta could offer them from a residence and naturalization perspective,” he said.
“Most of these demands are coming from families who are seeking a ‘safe haven’ for them and their children.”
Marco Mazzeschi, founder of the Italian firm Mazzeschi S.R.L., said he too expects a surge in interest in migration options in Italy from Ukrainians, and added that this is usually the case whenever a conflict erupts in some part of the world.
“Whenever a country is subject to risks of a conflict or a financial crisis, there is a growing interest of finding an ‘escape route,’ he said.
“I have seen it in the past with a surge of requests from Syrian and Iraqi citizens, and more recently from Afghanistan.”
Visa demands to grow, new challenges expected as war continues
German immigration consultant Aykut Elseven, a founding partner at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, said while those with means had already sorted out their migration options in Germany, the demand for such inquiries will only increase if the conflict dragged on.
“Many wealthy Ukrainians have obtained residence permits in Germany or other EU countries long before the current escalation of the conflict with Russia,” he said.
“But if the situation escalates further and the war spreads beyond the separatist region in Eastern-Ukraine, we expect a very strong increase in investment migration related requests from Ukraine.”
UK Immigration Advisor Henan Zhang, business development manager at Migra & Co., said that while she is not expecting a massive load of visa enquiries because of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, she predicted that Ukrainians seeking residency options in the UK would face new challenges.
“In my view, anyone who thought about and were able to leave the country, might have already done so following the escalation of tension in November 2021, let alone that UK’s investment immigration program has been closed,” Zhang said.
The UK shut down its Tier 1 Investor visa program earlier this month.
“The UKVI [UK Visas and Immigration] has stated that Ukrainian nationals can continue to make applications to visit, work, study or join family members in the UK, however, if the situation were to deteriorate and with the possible closure of the British embassy, migrants might have to do so from neighboring countries,” she said.
“This will cause significant difficulties for the applicants as they will need to travel to a different country and may not be able to leave until their passports are returned by the Home Office,” Zhang added.
Visa options for Ukrainians in Europe
At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be a special visa residency program for Ukrainians fleeing their country. However many countries are supporting Ukrainians and are facilitating ways for them to get out. For example, Ireland has announced that it is waiving all visa requirements for all Ukrainians.
“We believe this will be helpful to Ukrainian families here who may want their loved ones to join them. There will be a significant migration issue arising from these attacks, we will have to play our part in helping those who will have to flee Ukraine and we do that in solidarity with our European colleagues,” said Ireland’s prime minister Micheál Martin to media.
There are also several visa programs across the continent that Ukrainians could look into if their goal is to find a new home country as soon as possible.
Gouder said those looking to get a permanent residency card in Europe quickly could look at Malta.
“There are various options depending on the ultimate goal. In terms of residence, the Global Residence Program (GRP) and the Malta Permanent Residence Program (MPRP) provides them with tax residence and permanent residence respectively, and do not require any material investments,” he said.
“From a naturalization perspective, Malta offers naturalization within 12 or 36 months by direct investment – from a timing point of view this could also be interesting, since the applicants are provided with a residence card within the first few weeks of the process.”
Mazzeschi said Italy’s investor visa and the elective residence visa categories were also open to Ukrainians.
“The investor visa would be the most easy to obtain but not many people have sufficient and available funds,” he said.
“The other visa that is popular is the ‘elective residence visa’ (a kind of retirement visa), which is only apparently easy to obtain (applicant must prove to have an yearly income of at least 31,000 euros), but in reality it is extremely difficult, especially for applicants coming from sensitive countries.”
Elseven said highly skilled Ukrainians were better placed to quickly move to Germany.
“Highly skilled individuals who have a job offer in Germany can move very quickly under the EU-Blue card requirements from Ukraine to Germany,” he said.
Similar options are also available in places like the UK.
Greek immigration consultant Mary Tsiganou, who is the vice president of Synergia SA, said that while the Greek RBI program is not heavily dependent on Eastern Europe applicants, the war is expected to mark the beginning of an increase in applicants from Ukraine and neighboring countries.
She advised "Ukrainians to seriously consider the intangible assets option" of the Greek RBI program that requires a minimum of 400,000 euros. The Financial Independent Persons residence permit and the digital Nomad visas are other options that can be considered in Greece, Tsiganou added.
Some countries have also announced immigration concessions to Ukrainians, allowing them to extend their stay in their current residence and promising them prioritization of their immigration applications. But it remains unclear how many still inside Ukraine would be able to avail such opportunities after the Ukrainian president banned all men aged between 18 and 60 from leaving the country.
Impact of war on migration industry
It remains to be seen what exactly the impact of the war in Ukraine will be on the investment immigration industry in Europe, especially since it’s still early days into the conflict. Most industry professionals are hoping that this would not escalate into some larger conflict in Europe, which would then end up impacting economic gains made in the post pandemic world across all industries.
“I believe that this conflict has, and will continue to have a negative impact in general, both from an economic perspective, but more importantly, from a humanitarian one,” Gouder said.
“As to the migration industry, we will continue to see demand increase from Eastern European countries, should the conflict drag on. We hope that this won’t be the case, as it is usually the less economically able families which suffer the most.”
For his part, Elseven said: “It depends on whether it is a cold war or a military confrontation. If the war escalates further, this will also have an impact on the migration industry in Europe.”
Mazzeschi said he did not foresee any negative impact on the migration industry in Europe if the Ukraine conflict continued.
“On the contrary there could more individuals interested to obtain a second residency,” he said.
“The problem for the industry could be more the possible restrictions that could be imposed by EU countries on golden visas,” Mazzeschi said.
Powered by Froala Editor