Bram is a partner at Everaert Immigration Lawyers, and co-head of its corporate immigration practice group. He provides strategic immigration planning to multinational companies doing business in the Netherlands. He frequently teaches corporate immigration courses to local practitioners, and is a contributing co-editor to Asiel&Migrantenrecht, the leading immigration law review in the Netherlands.
What did you find most challenging about entering the field of corporate immigration?
Finding a good balance between action and reflection. Corporate immigration is fast paced, which I really like. But it is imperative that you also make time to be able to reflect on more abstract matters, such as overall strategy, (potential) new practice areas and business development, or fun things like coming up with new and creative legal arguments for certain types of cases.
How has the corporate immigration market evolved since you began practising?
There has been a shift from written applications to more (not all) digital applications. Along with that the focus has shifted from managing the application work to more overall compliance. Digital processing sometimes means that a company may receive positive decisions for their employees from our immigration authorities, but later is still sanctioned when the underlying administration is audited and not complete or compliant. It is an interesting change and requires a different approach and type of awareness from the client.
What difficulties have the covid-19 restrictions on travel posed for your practice recently?
Right now, even though at the time of writing, things are still far from normal in the world, immigration processing in the Netherlands has been going a little bit back to normal. It is yet to be seen if it stays that way. Obviously, covid-19 has seriously affected immigration (practitioners) all over the world. However, one of the key elements of the corporate immigration practice is that we try to provide as much certainty and predictability into the process, so that companies, the employees and their family members know exactly what to expect, and when. Covid-19 definitely threw a spanner into that smooth and predictable process. Especially in the beginning, rules on entering (and even leaving) were not very clear, not even for the people enforcing them. We managed, but uncertainty at times has not been easy for our clients.
With authorities becoming tougher on enforcement, what steps can companies take to ensure they have robust and effective compliance programmes in place?
For companies I believe it not just about ensuring you receive good immigration compliance advice, it is also about being open and receptive to the advice you get. We have had very good experience with companies that were willing to be fully transparent with us, basically “opening their kitchens” so that you can not only advise on what compliance is, but also point at specific parts of their operations that may be vulnerable or at risk of being or becoming non-compliant.
In your opinion, what will be the long-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on corporate immigration?
While we do not expect remote working to become the standard, we may see less physical mobility of the workforce. More consideration will be placed on whether moving an employee across borders is actually necessary. The increase in remote working will also test the boundaries of current immigration regulations, which are still meant to accommodate a workforce that typically works in a physical office or company space.
What do you think will be the greatest challenge faced by the next generation of immigration lawyers?
Being asked that question made me pause for a second as I realise I am no longer part of ‘that next generation’, but that is okay – I am already over it. If I look at my colleagues from that next generation, they are already great lawyers, very intelligent and truly empathetic to their clients. In this day and age, clients are almost able to have instant communication with their lawyers, so the threshold to reach out is quite low. That is also a very positive thing, but it may pose a real challenge to finding a good balance in your practice. To maintain a high service level while at the same time not becoming overwhelmed by the sheer volume of communication that comes your way in the process.
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
It is actually a Bible phrase, and I received it as advice from my parents: “But test them all; hold on to what is good.” It works in many facets of life, but in terms of career to me it represents the idea that a career does not need to be a straight line, a straight path to a certain career goal. As a student it is often difficult to know what you want out of your career, how to make ‘the right choice’, and how to know if something is the right choice. It turns out there is no perfect choice. There is just hard work, opportunities, a bit of luck and loads of optimism. Letting go of that idea of a perfect path, and having tried out different things, really helped me in understanding what I want to do and – hopefully – what I am good at.
"Bram is an excellent, hands-on lawyer"
"He is client oriented and on top of finding creative and compliant solutions"
"A great immigration practitioner in the Netherlands"
Bram van Melle is a partner and co-head of the firm's corporate immigration practice. His practice focuses on business immigration. His client base is quite diverse, ranging from large multinational companies in need of high-volume application work, to start-ups and individuals.
Bram provides strategic advice to the firm's multinational corporate clients, helping them to maintain compliance with immigration laws and regulations. He is committed to providing tailor-made counsel and a high level of service.
His application work includes all employment-related categories as well as complex sponsor registration applications and treaty investor and entrepreneur applications for clients from the US, Japan and Turkey.
His court work involves representing employers in appeals against employer sanctions and private clients in appeals against refusals and revocations, notably if there are elements of EU law.
Bram is a well sought-after expert on Dutch nationality law and is often asked to advise clients living abroad who seek to retain Dutch nationality or acquire it by naturalisation or entitlement.
Bram is a contributing co-editor to Asiel&Migrantenrecht, the leading Netherlands' immigration law review. He is frequently invited to speak at (inter)national conferences, and has taught courses on Modern Migration Policy (MoMi) for OSR - Institute for Professional Legal Education and CPO, and currently teaches for Sdu on various topics of employment immigration.
Bram is a member of the WRV (the Dutch professional organisation for immigration attorneys), the IBA, and AILA, and is currently serving in the Steering Committee of its Global Migration Section.
Before joining Everaert, Bram worked at the Ministry of Security and Justice and the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations.