09/02/2022 – MGSoG/UNU-MERIT Seminar: “Why don’t residence by investment programmes work?”

Investment migration programmes—which offer residence permits or citizenship in return for a financial transaction or passive investment—have become increasingly popular in high-income immigration destinations over the past 15 years. However, a running theme in evaluations of investor programmes has been that their results often fall short of policymakers’ expectations. This research asks why it has been so difficult to design investor programmes that policymakers are happy with. Drawing on qualitative interviews with policymakers and professional intermediaries in the United States and the United Kingdom—both programmes that attempt to attract investment into private-sector companies—it identifies various challenges designing and implementing investor programmes. First, policymakers have struggled to define and agree on a realistic vision for what either the investments or the investors themselves should look like and why they are needed. Second, governments’ incentives are not aligned with those of the migrants and industry professionals who use the programmes; this has generated tension between a) the desire to target the programmes at particular types of investment activities and migrants; and b) the desire to keep programmes simple, manageable to administer, and politically attractive. Finally, efforts to reform investor visas have been stymied by disagreement among policymakers about their purpose, as well as institutional inertia driven by the policies’ relatively low salience in public debates.

About the speaker

Madeleine Sumption is the Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, which provides impartial analysis of migration in the UK. Her research focuses on the design and impacts of immigration policies, particularly in the UK. Madeleine is a member of the Migration Advisory Committee, a panel of independent experts who advise the UK government on migration. She also chairs the Migration Statistics User Forum, which brings together producers and users of migration data. In 2017, she received an MBE for services to social science.

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