Emigration opportunities and obstacles
Ukrainians seeking a new life abroad must contend with anti-immigration environment
As Ukraine’s dream of greater Euro-integration continues to fade, emigration is back on the agenda for many young Ukrainians. With the current government in Kyiv facing the prospect of increasing international isolation, many of the country’s emerging generation are being drawn to the broader horizons and better prospects of the wider world.
Although it fell briefly out of fashion amid the ‘Euro Optimism’ of Ukraine’s Orange era, emigration is once again a topic of everyday conversation – much as it had been throughout the troubled 1990s as the country first emerged from the Soviet malaise. Most would-be Ukrainian emigrants continue to look to the EU as the best option, with increasing numbers taking advantage of property laws in numerous Mediterranean EU member states which offer fast-track routes to residency rights. Others look towards well-established post-Soviet immigrant communities in France and Germany, with Berlin continuing to serve as something of a melting pot for former citizens of the USSR.
EU anti-immigration backlash
One of the most popular destinations for Ukrainians looking to make a new start abroad remains the UK, with London serving as an enviable hub. Unfortunately, Ukraine’s recently revitalized interest in emigration options comes at a time when the UK’s immigration laws have arguably never been tougher. Over the past five years a series of shake-ups throughout the country’s vast immigration system have made both visa and immigration processes far more demanding for would-be immigrants.
This tightening of the system has come largely in response to public disquiet over the impact which mass immigration is having on the UK economy, the nation’s public services, and British society in general. Key factors driving this concern include the sheer volume of EU immigration since the European Union’s expansion in 2004. The issue of illegal immigrants has also fuelled public demands for action, while the ongoing global recession has forced UK politicians to man the barricades in defense of British jobs. The broadly anti-immigration political dynamic identifiable in British politics today is part of a wider European trend which has seen a general swing to the Right and the rise of various anti-immigration parties.
At the extremes of this trend are the likes of Greece’s Neo-Fascist ‘Golden Dawn’, a party whose reputation for violence and xenophobia did not prevent it from entering the Greek parliament during recent elections. In France the anti-immigration backlash can be felt far closer to the centre of power, with nationalist heroine Marine Le Pen garnering a record 17.9% of the national vote in the country’s 2012 presidential ballot.
Risking rejection: the danger of unprofessional applications
Nevertheless, even in such relatively inhospitable times the desire to seek out a better future retains its potency, and for many young Ukrainians emigration remains a risk well worth taking. The majority of today’s Ukrainian emigrants are driven primarily by a desire to secure a better lifestyle. This usually entails better education and healthcare for their children and a secure financial environment which will allow them to plan for the future.
Unfortunately, not all of today’s would-be Ukrainian emigres are familiar with the considerable recent evolution which has taken place in the immigration and visa policies of EU member states and also in the US and Canada. Far too many Ukrainian applicants continue to assume that engaging the services of a standard travel agent will suffice, thereby exposing themselves to the risks incumbent in reliance on staff with little or no prior legal experience in the field of international immigration law. In such cases the outcome is all too often the rejection of a client’s visa or immigration application – a turn of events which can have serious negative ramifications for the rejected applicant for years to come, including long-term bans on re-applications.
Ever-changing immigration rules
Another common misconception is the idea that if you have been issued with an EU visa or residency status in the past, then you will automatically be issued with similar status again. In reality, while having a history of successful visa applications may work in your favour, it is no guarantee that future applications will be successful. Instead, each application is judged largely - if not solely - on the strength of its paperwork. Future immigration applicants would be wise to focus their attention on making sure they have correctly prepared every single piece of required documentation.
Most prospective Ukrainian emigrants seek out legal advice as they explore the possibilities and pitfalls of moving their lives abroad, but many continue to rely on readily available general legal practitioners for guidance – a decision which often leaves them short on specialist knowledge of immigration laws and forced to make uninformed decisions. In most cases it would likely prove cheaper and quicker to invest in specialist emigration legal services at the outset rather than economize on non-specialist counsel. As well as providing a general grounding in the immigration application process, a specialist immigration
advisor will also be aware of the most recent changes and developments in immigration legislation. Crucially, they will be well-placed to offer potential immigrants a general idea of what changes can be expected in the future.
The legal framework which Ukrainians must navigate if they wish to emigrate is growing more and more complex every year, but there are still many different routes open to Ukrainians of all income levels. Those with considerable wealth will inevitably find it easier to set themselves up abroad, but all potential Ukrainian immigrants must reckon with a rapidly evolving immigration environment which presents both opportunities and pitfalls.
About the author: George Georghiou ([email protected]) is Managing Partner of Feod Group (www.feodgroup.com). In 2005 Mr. Georghiou joined Feod Group and has since specialized in offering advice on UK and EU immigration issues as well as international property investment.