Travel Smart With Attorney Chika Okoroafor: Why You Should Start Going to Vacations Abroad Even If You Don’t Intend to Migrate Right Now

 

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The Travel Smart Series is written by Chika Okoroafor, an immigration lawyer based in Nigeria. To see our very first interview with her, click here. I partner with her to produce the series so as to create awareness of the legitimate means available for those who wish to travel abroad. We hope this effort will help reduce the epidemic of human trafficking which  results when desperate Nigerians try to migrate to other countries illegally.  

For a while now I have been trying to finish a post on International Investment for foreigners who are interested in investing in Nigeria and for Nigerians who are interested in investing abroad. It ought to have been posted weeks back but somehow other topics have kept it in the shadow. I was determined to finish it and finally get it out this week but  I am afraid that won’t be the case. Today’s post is inspired by interactions I had with two individuals who contacted me independently, via this medium. Although they had different stories and plans, I realised that at the end of the day, to each, I was making similar submission as to the other. I realised that even with some variances in their individual facts, they share the same fundamental defects, hence the similarity in the solution I proffered. Before I go into the main discussion please permit me to digress a little.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Italian authorities recovered the corpse of 26 female Nigerians (some as young as 14), illegal migrants who died in the Mediterranean sea while crossing into Italy from Libya.  375 other migrants were rescued and according to The Guardian, most of the survivors were either Nigerians or from other Sub-Saharan countries including Ghana, Sudan and Senegal. It was also reported that these migrants were victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. About a week ago, I watched on TV the mass funeral and burial ceremony given to the 26 deceased by the Italians during which Nigerian officials were conspicuously absent. There are arguments that there are no proofs that the 26 were (all) Nigerians.  To me this is the most pathetic excuse and totally irrelevant.

Human trafficking, especially women trafficking, has been a menace in our country for God knows how long. Our Government, however, is yet to take definite action or take a firm approach towards putting an end to it.  Because the routes and tactics through which this evil is perpetrated are well known, we don’t need a rocket scientist to proffer a permanent solution to end this inhumane act. So the question is: Why is human trafficking still alive and well in our country? If you think corruption, well, your guess is as good as mine. However, it will take the most deviant in heart to look the other way, while young female children are being trafficked.  I implore every one of us to please be our brother’s keeper.  Most of these girls are taken involuntarily. Let us report to relevant authorities immediately, if we suspect anyone or group of person to be perpetrators. May God help us and all of ours.

To our main discussion for today, we will be looking into the relevance of a good immigration/travel history vis-a-vis issues presented by the two individuals I interacted with earlier this week.

Client A is a soft-spoken young man, single, in his early thirties. He earns a modest income working for a reputable organisation; he is also an entrepreneur with strings of businesses here and there.  For the past five years until quite recently, he could boast of a net worth of about Fifty Million Naira (N50, 000,000).  Like most businesses in Nigeria, he’s also suffered some challenges that led to a drastic fall in his net worth in recent time.  He contacted me because he is desirous of exploring prospective international contacts, in Canada, for some business prospects.

Client B. Coincidentally another young man, who recently turned 19 years old, is from a middle class home. He has been trying to gain admission into the University for the past three years but hasn’t been successful.  To pacify him for his recent disappointment over yet another unsuccessful attempt to gain admission into the university and course of his choice, his parents are willingly to sponsor him for a trip abroad for a holiday, preferably to the UK or US where they have relatives who will receive him. On further inquiry, I discovered that client B’s parents are seasoned travelers with impeccable immigration/travel history

Unfortunately for both clients in the scenarios above, in my humble opinion, based on their current circumstances, chances that they will be granted visas on their application for a visitor’s visa to the destinations they seek is quite narrow and thus not advisable. It’s most unfortunate that both of them could have built an excellent travel history if they had made use of their immigration/travel opportunity peak period.

Do you know when your travel opportunity peak period is? Are you making use of it? Are you developing your immigration/travel record? Perhaps this post will gain you some enlightenment about why your response to the above questions ought to be in the affirmative.

In assessing a client for financial eligibility, I always request for client’s current six months financial record, in other words, bank statement(s). For Client A, it can easily be deduced from his bank statement that presently his financial circumstance is in distress because there is a great disparity in turnover from previous months and the later months. Because client A is single (no family ties) he has only his financial circumstances to establish reasonable ties. Establishing ties in home country is a prerequisite factor for the grant of a visitor’s visa. Clients A’s financial statement from a year ago (2016) was impeccable, great turnovers and stable income flow and it would have made an excellent document to build his immigration/travel records on. But it’s a typical average Nigerian mentality (especially those of us from the Eastern region of Nigeria) of those who are relatively financially well off, but see traveling as waste, except there is an immediate financial gain attached.  We fail to see the greater picture, which is that in the business world, to grow is to continuously explore and expand; nothing in life, business, technology, science etc is static. If you don’t grow, sooner or later, you become obsolete. A little bit of advice to us: No matter how palmy our present business, job, career maybe at the moment, we shouldn’t get too comfortable in a particular spot no matter how good it may seem at the moment. It pays to keep exploring ways to do more, know more and keep being better.  In whatever we do, we should avoid being monotonous at all cost.

Another hitch in Client A’s path is his country of interest. The Canadian high commission, from my practical experience in this line of business, is what we term as “not first-timers friendly”.  There are some diplomatic missions who are very skeptical about “visitors” with zero travel record. So I would not ordinarily (they are few exceptions though) advise a client to apply for a Canadian tourist/other visitors visa if such applicant had not previously  been to United States. However, Client A’s case is redeemable.

My recommendation to Client A

  • To Wait: First, he has to tidy up his financial. He will run a separate account for his salary and another account for income from side his hustle. His business account will be allowed to phase out the previous financial activities so in another couple of months, his future six months statement will read a stable revenue flow albeit a more moderate turnover. Financial eligibility is not all about huge turnovers but financial consistency/stability.
  • On a zero immigration/travel history and in the absence of a specific special visitation grounds, I will not advise him to apply to Canada first. I suggested a couple of “first-timers friendly” diplomatic missions where ceteris paribus, his application as a first-timer will stand a good chance. After he has made a couple of trips, then he may approach the Canadian High Commission.

About Client B, being an unemployed adult (above 18years) he is most likely to be viewed by any entry clearance officer assessing his application as an economic migrant and hence ineligible for a visitor’s visa. His parents’ sponsorship and the fact he has an invitation of family /friend who are legal residents of host country notwithstanding. Assessment is first and foremost individual-based.  The simple summary of client B’s individual assessment will reveal an unemployed adult, poor financial status, zero ties to home country.  However a few years back, when Client B was still a minor and perhaps in secondary school, an application for visitor visa would have been granted, why? He was a minor dependent on his parents’ financial status and his tie would be his educational status in his home country. In that scenario, as long as his parents could afford to sponsor him, and every other thing being equal, he is eligible to be granted entry permit. Client B’s parents would have taken advantage of his secondary school study period to build an immigration record for him by simply taking him along a few of their numerous previous trips abroad. As little as three trips to UK can earn an applicant privileged to a five year multiple entry visitor visa. The US embassy grants eligible applicant 2 years multiple entry visitor’s visa renewable via drop box (the drop box options is not an absolute right though). In other words if Client B had taken advantage of his immigration/travel peak period ( in this case while he was still in school), chances are that he may, like his parents, have valid visas/entry right at the present  and there would not have been any need to approach the diplomatic missions.  All he would have needed would be tickets to his destination and bon voyage.

Recommendations

  • To wait till he has proof of reasonable ties. In this instance, the easiest evidence of ties for client B to develop is academic pursuit. He needs to get into school (University) and while in school during school holiday he may start developing his immigration/travel record. Except he intends to change his visa route say from visit to study, then it’s a different procedure one which may not necessarily need evidence of an ongoing academic pursuit.
  • Since the trip is merely for Client B’s amusement, I suggested tourist location within Nigeria top on my list (Obudu cattle ranch in the beautiful state of Cross Rivers) or other regions where visa processing is not strict or visa free. The suggestions may not be as glamorous or exciting for client B as what his parents had promised but my job is to give advice from list of options, that which will suit client’s best in any prevailing circumstances. And like folks around here would say; at all, at all, na em bad pass or in other phrase; half bread is better than nothing.

Moral of today’s post: if /when you can afford it, please do develop you immigration/travel record. You may not necessarily be a chronic traveler to do this. As little as one trip a year or one in two years, strategically planned, may be all you need. The important thing is to create a bridge between yourself and countries of interest. On the long run you will discover it is worth it. This advice is most useful for us in Nigeria and other 3rd world countries.  Most of our local industries are constantly playing catch up with contemporaries in countries in the 1st world. If we are to retain relevance in any field and perhaps dare to top local competitors, we have to have access to the right information and contacts globally via attending conferences, trade fairs, trainings, short/long course etc; hence the essence of a healthy immigration/travel history.

I hope today’s post resonates with someone. If you want to know when you are at you immigration/travel peak or wish to start or develop your immigration/travel record, we are available to advise, guide and assist in any way we can. Who says you cannot mix business with pleasure? When you travel smart, you can turn a holiday to business prospects (without breaching your visitor’s visa conditions). When you travel smart you can eat your cake and have it.

Thank you for your mails. Like I mentioned earlier, this post was inspired by your inquiries and I hope to draw more inspiration for future post from your emails and comments. As usual, inquires at the comment session will be promptly attended to. Private inquiries are welcomed too at attorneychika@gmail.com.

Till next time, keep smart and remember, sharing is caring

Chika Okoroafor

 

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