The global mobility system will never be the same after the appearance of COVID-19 in our lives. With the first confinements starting in February 2020 and, again, with the blocking measures that emerged later that year with the second waves of the pandemic, it may seem paradoxical now to talk about migration being more important than ever. But it will. And Golden Visas are going to play a crucial role.
See: Golden Visas: are we facing an investment migration boom?
In 2019, the year before the coronavirus appeared, 1.5 billion travelers and tourists traveled the world from one point to another. More than 270 million people resided in countries other than their country of origin. And although COVID-19 has put a momentary halt to the movements of one and all — whether for leisure travel or for economic and/or political reasons, its impact will only increase the demand for global mobility across the planet.
Why? Because the pandemic has been a miserable experience for billions of people, motivating them to try to move as quickly as possible from their particular "red zones" — with poor governance and ineffective healthcare — to supposed "green zones", where future quarantines would be more tolerable and healthcare systems are much more robust.
And this already weighty factor would add to others that have been driving migration for years and, in some cases, only increase its impact: labor shortages, political turmoil, economic crises or climate change.
Who will move with Golden Visas and how?
The international movement of people will not be as free again for years, either as a direct effect of the pandemic — quarantines, health immunity certificates, etc. — or indirectly: economic depression, political and cultural xenophobia arising in times of crisis. And this new protectionism will reach even the most qualified jobs, which, unlike the movements of the lower classes of world society, until now had remained somewhat aloof from obstacles to movement.
Thus, the different Golden Visa programs existing worldwide will become a very important asset from now on for international movements.
Even before the pandemic, protectionist processes such as Brexit had increased interest in these programs. And, for example, thousands of qualified British professionals began to seek residency or citizenship in Germany, France, Spain, or Portugal.
In the US, the process has been similar. And the impact of COVID-19 in the country, coupled with other factors, such as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), the country's declining diplomatic prestige, or political uncertainty, has led to some 6,000 Americans seeking second passports or another nationality during the first half of 2020.
A record number and which doubled the total number of people seeking to expatriate in 2019.
Overall, the main destinations for these movements have been Canada, Europe and Asia, territories that have seen interest in migrating to them through Golden Visa programs triple during 2020.
Sdee: Golden Visa: From California to Spain
Here are some of the main reasons:
- In the specific case of Europe, the case is not surprising. EU passports have retained high mobility worldwide, and consistently rank first in the Kälin - Kochenov Quality of Nationality Index (QNI).
- Although its passport is of middling strength, Thailand has been described as a "health oasis" and its Elite Residency Program for foreigners includes a free annual medical examination. The program allows up to 20 years of residency, and 2020 was a record-breaking year, with applications at the end of September up nearly 25% compared to the previous year.
- Similar to Thailand, programs in the United Arab Emirates countries also offer opportunities for indefinite medical tourism in safe and prosperous locations.
- Countries seeking to attract digital nomads, known as telemigrants, are in a separate category. Here, countries such as Croatia, Estonia and Georgia have placed the most emphasis on offering renewable passports to service industry workers. We could also include states such as Canada, the Netherlands and Norway.
Especially in the case of telemigrants, it is worth noting that these offers could be very attractive to millennials and members of Generation Z. Today's young people make up almost 60% of the world's population and tend to have fewer assets and children than members of Generation X or baby boomers. They are socially and environmentally conscious, as well as less nationalistic, making them potentially the most mobile generation in recent history.
With them comes a fundamental change: from being each country for itself to being each person for himself.
Aspects such as these make migration policies not only a way of attracting or rejecting foreigners, but a way of seeking to bring money into a country. A strategy to boost the economy through visa policies to attract investment rather than immigrants.
Increasingly, the idea that most people do not move or are fixed in one place is wrong. Mobility is an inherent characteristic of all populations, especially among the most skilled sectors.
And I believe that COVID-19 is not going to reverse this trend. Quite the contrary.
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