Tess Wilkinson is Director of Education Services at Henley & Partners Education.
The world at the beginning of 2024 is a highly unstable place, with the ongoing Russo–Ukrainian war, conflict between Israel and Hamas, and tensions between China and Europe, as well as with the USA, Canada, and Australia, although to a lesser degree. At no time has it been more important for families to consider a plan B to ensure their security in the present moment and safeguard as vast an array of future opportunities as possible for their children than now. Often, and rightfully, the foundation of securing a child’s future lies in the education they receive.
The good news remains that the top destinations for tertiary education and excellent schools also offer some of the most popular residence and citizenship by investment programs in the world. Coupling an education and immigration solution for a child, in addition to benefits for the whole family, ensures that their opportunities after graduation remain open and available, regardless of any global mobility challenges that they may face in an uncertain, changing global landscape.
As with any global sphere, international education is not without its challenges. Recently, the countries that have historically been the most desirable choices for students pursuing tertiary education — such as the UK, the USA, Australia, and Canada — are facing significant changes in their immigration policies that disproportionally negatively affect a big number of international students who are either already located in these destinations or considering them for future relocation.
For example, in July 2023, the Australian government decided that the post-study visas of graduates studying eligible degrees can be extended for a minimum of two years, while other graduates will find it more complicated to remain in the country. Meanwhile, Canada’s policy is shifting the focus from English-language to Francophone universities in Quebec with the aim of protecting the French language and heritage in the region, but subsequently resulting in fees for international students attending an Anglophone university in Quebec to almost double. The UK has increased the income threshold required for bringing dependents on a student visa, which effectively disqualifies some of the best and brightest masters and PhD students from across the world from pursuing a tertiary education there.
All the above examples clearly illustrate that international education and immigration cannot and should not be thought of as separate issues, as they inform and affect one another. The consistent pressures of global instability, a demand for more high-skilled migration in particular fields but less migration overall, and the changing requirements for international students leave families with an acute awareness that planning ahead is crucial.
To illustrate the importance of securing a child’s future prospects by combining education and investment migration, consider a Malaysian student studying in Canada as an example. Completing a degree in Canada is a great achievement for any individual, domestic and international alike. With recent policy changes, however, the Malaysian student would have to pay nearly double the amount in fees throughout their studies compared to their Canadian counterpart. Furthermore, despite having the same degree, the Canadian student has the opportunity to search for jobs in Canada without an imposed time limit and explore various venues for future activities. By contrast, the Malaysian student has a strict deadline to find a job within their expertise and closely related to the degree they pursued, or risk having no choice but to leave Canada. Finally, if they had studied for a specialist degree, it is likely that the Malaysian job market does not have many prospects and opportunities that would adequately utilize the graduate’s recently acquired skills and abilities.
This is where considering a residence or citizenship by investment program is a strategic investment and assures the child has opportunities throughout and after their degree. Canada is host to a prosperous Start-Up Visa Program that enables an applicant to obtain Canadian residence — leading to citizenship — for the whole family through an investment to the North American country. Considering the same Malaysian student, should their family apply for the Start-Up Visa, they could graduate with a prestigious degree and as a Canadian national, thereby curtailing all the negative implications noted above. More importantly, however, as the holder of a Canadian passport, they would then be free to explore all career and business avenues within Canada and with a greater level of mobility globally.
To an individual who possesses both a world-class education and a world-class citizenship, global opportunities abound. The combination of excellent education and global citizenship is one of the greatest gifts that a child can have heading into an ever-changing, globalized future world.