Are You Following a Fake Citizenship Expert?
By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.
Following popular travel bloggers for legal insight may lead you down the wrong path
There's no pleasant way to say this:
We have a real problem with fake experts all over social media in the field of global mobility.
This field includes citizenship and residency by investment, citizenship by descent, digital nomad visas, traditional immigration and other mobility assets. Unfortunately, some of these fake experts are able to build sizable audiences, and create a veneer of expertise where none exists.
The problem is that these fakers fill up the heads of citizenship aficionados with crap information that may has the appearance of being insightful to a lay person. But citizenship and mobility issues are complex. These are legal issues - the domain of lawyers and high level consultants.
People follow fakers on social media because they are not aware of the levels of proximity to the real action of dual citizenship, mobility and residencies. The “action” is the nitty gritty work of screening, analyzing, preparing, and submitting applications for citizenship and residency, as well as making appeals when necessary.
Real experts in this field are close to the action.
Here’s how the industry works and how to have an idea if you’re following a real expert or if you’re following…somebody else.
An immigration lawyer/advocate evaluates a case from scratch, prepares an application from start to finish, even if doing so while consulting with other mobility lawyers specializing in particular jurisdictions. The lawyer (or their staff) fills the forms, gathers the information. They do document gathering, review or analysis of laws and regulations. Analysis of the intersection of this application with Client's other legal issues and cases.
Lawyer files the form, and is responsible for its progress.
Client checks in with the lawyer two to fifteen times to know whether a contemplated trip, or life event will interfere with the application. Application is approved or denied. If denied, Lawyer has to answer why it was denied, and contemplate the possibility and eligibility for an appeal.
On an individual level, some lawyers stink, but as a group, this is where top-level expertise is forged.
The immigration lawyer reads primary source materials (actual laws, case decisions and regulations), and has first-hand experience with the reality of doing the case from start to finish.
The lawyer is at level one proximity to the reality of citizenship, global mobility and immigration.
An immigration consultant gets information about the application from that lawyer above. The immigration consultant only receives the broad strokes because all the details of the immigration case would consist of or reference hundreds of pages of material, many of which are dense legalese.
The consultant may integrate this information with professionals (usually lawyers or accountants) in adjacent areas such as tax, post-conviction relief, genealogy, or asset protection, into a greater plan for the client.
This is an example of a useful consultant. Some consultants are badasses, in a good way. Or the consultant may just be a mostly useless middleman who exists just to take a piece of the action.
Either way, the consultant has, to some degree, a distorted idea of the reality at level one because there's a degree of separation between the consultant and the nitty gritty legal work. But the consultant is still dealing with the immigration case, as a professional.
But not at level one.
The consultant is at level two proximity.
A fake guru on youtube or twitter (often anonymous) talks to an immigration consultant or an immigration lawyer about a type of case. Many fake gurus are travel bloggers or come from that world. They read a bunch of cursory 900 word articles on citizenship and immigration, written by lawyers or consultants.
The fake guru posts false, sensationalist, engagement-farming takes on citizenship, residency and immigration that are reflective of someone who's gotten information third-hand.
That’s because their information is distorted, abbreviated, and lacking critical nuance.
The fake guru's payoff is the engagement and possible case referral to a consultant, or lawyer in exchange for a commission.
The fake guru is, at best, an interested but uninformed observer. Perhaps they had one or two mobility cases themselves in which they were the client. Some amass big followings. These fake experts get great buy-in from their followers by affinity posting.
"Girls! Passports! Islands! Bank accounts! Yay!"
The followers gobble it up, and stay following these bozos even after they're debunked, because they're "in for the penny, in for the pound,” and due to tribalism of social media. I don’t necessarily believe most of these fake gurus explicitly intend to mislead people, but that's exactly what they do.
The fake guru is at level three proximity. They are not close enough to the arena of immigration advocacy to have a real
idea of its contours, edges, textures and pitfalls.
Where Real Knowledge Comes From
Here's the reality - these fake gurus are so off the mark on the reality of global mobility issues because they're so far removed from the real advocacy experience dealing with the legal systems involved.
Fake gurus are not in the trenches, dealing with real people, real legal systems, and solving problems under pressure. They have lawyers and immigration consultants doing that, even if you think you’re a “client” of the fake guru.
Even the fake gurus who are most experienced as a client have only gone through perhaps three or four cases and usually, it was their lawyer that was doing the heavy lifting.
Be selective with where you get your information from, and know the difference between travel bloggers and real mobility experts.