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Thought Leaders

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Eugene Chow

Eugene Chow

Chow King & AssociatesSuite 1010, 10/F, Sun Hung Kai Centre30 Harbour RoadWan ChaiHong Kong

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Eugene Chow stands out for his “terrific work” and leading expertise in citizenship and immigration matters, both in Hong Kong and internationally.

Questions & Answers

Eugene Chow has a diversified international immigration practice focused on the visa and residency needs of corporate clients, entrepreneurs and investors. A skilled immigration law specialist with more than 40 years of practice experience, Eugene is well known for his effective advocacy and creative solutions. The firm also has a well-established niche practice in citizenship matters, representing individuals who wish to relinquish their US citizenship, and multinational families in acquiring an alternative citizenship or residence.

How has the corporate immigration market changed since you started practicing?

Just four decades ago, most full-service law firms did not have immigration law departments. The work was not as valued then, as it was seen as merely filling out immigration forms and not recognised as a legal practice in its own right. Immigration cases were usually delegated to either solo practitioners or smaller specialty law firms. This gradually evolved to larger law firms having their employment and labour lawyers to also handle immigration matters for senior executives of corporations, and that was when “corporate immigration law” was “born” in large law firms. Today, the immigration legal field has really ballooned due to client demand. Virtually all full-service international law firms have immigration legal practices that handle both inbound and outbound immigration matters. All of the Big Four accounting firms have also established “global mobility services” and immigration consultancies have moved into this market as well. Having worked at a large international law firm in the past, I found that the immigration department was not valued and was often treated as the “stepchild” of the firm. Also, the corporate bureaucracy of large firms hindered efficiency in serving clients. That’s what motivated me to start my own boutique immigration firm, so that I can provide more bespoke and nimble personalised advisory services to my clients.

What fascinates you most about the field of immigration law?

What I love about immigration law is that it is ultimately a people-oriented business. That means the legal advice I give my clients helps them resolve real-life challenges, whether it’s moving to a country for education or better job opportunities; tax-efficiency planning; or acquiring an alternative passport for visa-free travel privileges or as a hedge against political uncertainty in their country of origin. Giving advice on immigration issues means providing my clients with counsel that can be life-changing and make a considerable impact on their personal and professional lives. I find that deeply rewarding and satisfying, and many of my clients become my friends for life. When I look back, I can truly say that practising immigration law has been a very fulfilling calling.

In our increasingly uncertain world, what do you find most challenging about practising corporate immigration law today? What effect do global tensions have on the corporate immigration market?

Our world is definitely going through a lot of volatility in almost every region. Globally, whether it’s Brexit or tech disruptions in various industries, companies are tackling unprecedented challenges that sit at the intersection of sociopolitical and economic crises in many jurisdictions. Here in Hong Kong, which was once referred to by writer Richard Hughes as “a borrowed place living on borrowed time”, there have been periodic surges in immigration depending on Hong Kong’s political status and its relationship with China. Be it during the 1967 riots, the lead-up to the 1997 handover from the UK to China, the SARS crisis or the most recent 2019 protests, Hong Kong has seen waves of emigration followed by counter-waves of “returnees” after crisis situations subside. These waves of emigration have required corporations to deal with the brain drain associated with executives leaving Hong Kong for other opportunities. In my role advising multinational corporations, I am frequently asked to help devise measures to ensure both the orderly departure and return of key executive talent after helping them acquire permanent residence abroad through corporate sponsorship.

What are some growth areas you have identified for your firm?

The growth area I see for corporate immigration law is that there needs to be more alignment and partnership between law firms, as our clients require more global and around-the-clock services across jurisdictions. For many of my cases, I collaborate or refer out work to other law firms in other jurisdictions so that my clients can get the best “on-the-ground” advice in specific countries. That means a lot more inter-firm, cross-border collaborations so that my firm can continue providing very personalised and individualised counsel to serve clients who require a more global solution to their immigration needs. Having a network of law firms I work with really helps our clients to navigate different immigration challenges, and allows my firm to focus on real-time research, analysis and advice to address their varying needs.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in corporate immigration?

My advice to those starting out in corporate immigration is to speak to as many people in this practice area as possible to get different perspectives and experiences. There is no “one size fits all” career or solution, and immigration lawyers need to not only know the law but also be entrepreneurial and creative in solving client issues. I would also suggest really listening to your clients’ needs, and thinking outside the box, to understand the real drivers of their immigration needs. This level of empathy helps us as lawyers to provide the best counsel to clients responsive to their situation.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Eugene Chow stands out for his “terrific work” and leading expertise in citizenship and immigration matters, both in Hong Kong and internationally.

Questions & Answers

Eugene Chow has a diversified international immigration practice focused on the visa and residency needs of corporate clients, entrepreneurs and investors. A skilled immigration law specialist with more than 40 years of practice experience, Eugene is well known for his effective advocacy and creative solutions. The firm also has a well-established niche practice in citizenship matters, representing individuals who wish to relinquish their US citizenship, and multinational families in acquiring an alternative citizenship or residence.

In the four decades you’ve been practising law, how has immigration law evolved as a legal practice?

Corporate immigration law has transformed a lot since I started practising. In the 1980s, full-service law firms did not have dedicated immigration law departments and cases were delegated to solo practitioners or smaller specialty law firms. Later, larger law firms started asking their employment and labour lawyers to also handle immigration matters. Today, virtually all full-service international law firms have immigration legal practices and immigration consultancies have moved into this market as well. What’s interesting is that the field of immigration law will continue to evolve, with more points of intersection with other types of advisory professionals such as bankers, tax advisors and relocation specialists.

Can you tell us a bit about your career as an immigration lawyer?

Having been a teenage immigrant to the US, I’ve always been intrigued by immigration as a topic. I started my legal career by working in a grassroots community legal services office, then moved to a boutique law firm that specialised in immigration matters ranging from family reunion, political asylum and deportation cases to business immigration. I later relocated to Hong Kong in 1987 with a global full-service law firm to focus on corporation immigration law for companies and high-net-worth individuals. After some time in a large law firm, I found the corporate bureaucracy of large firms hindered efficiency in serving clients. That’s how I turned a chapter and decided to start my own boutique immigration firm so that I can provide more bespoke, nimble and personalised services for my clients.

In your view, what’s the most interesting aspect about the practice of corporate immigration law?

The most fascinating part about my practice is servicing clients across different life stages. Some clients are students trying to find the ideal location to continue their education or develop their careers, others are accomplished senior executives who are trying to enhance their careers in the most tax-efficient jurisdiction, and some are trying to acquire a passport for visa-free travel convenience or to hedge against political uncertainty in their country of origin. Literally, we as immigration lawyers get to help clients ranging from birth to 100 years old, and sometimes even across several generations: grandparents, parents and even their children. Every client who walks into my office comes with very distinct challenges and concerns that require personalised counsel to help them and their families solve some of their most fundamental immigration issues. Recently, it was very gratifying for me to meet with a 30-year old MBA graduate from an Ivy League school who reminded me that he last saw me when he was nine years old, when his father had retained me to help his family immigrate to the US based on an investment. This client, now a naturalised US citizen, came to visit me in Hong Kong for immigration law advice to another jurisdiction.

Why do individuals and corporate clients choose Chow King & Associates? How would you define the unique value proposition of your firm?

The decision process of relocating to another country is a deeply personal matter, even if it is for professional reasons. Immigration is ultimately very much a people-centric business. The legal advice we provide needs to be customised to the individual level with a focus on personalised attention and solution. With a small boutique firm, my practice allows me to provide a tailored approach that caters to both corporate clients and the individual’s specific immigration needs.

What is the greatest challenge currently faced by corporate immigration lawyers in the Hong Kong market?

Hong Kong SAR has always experienced surges in immigration throughout history, depending on its political status. Be it during the 1967 riots, the lead-up to the 1997 handover from the UK to China, the SARS crisis or the most recent 2019 protests, Hong Kong has always seen waves of emigration followed by counter-waves of “returnees” after crisis situations subside. For corporate immigration practice, these waves of emigration also meant corporations had to deal with the brain drain associated with executives leaving their Hong Kong offices for other opportunities. In advising multinational corporations, I am frequently asked to help devise measures to ensure both orderly departure and return of key executive talent after helping them acquire permanent residence abroad through corporate sponsorship.

How would you like to see your practice develop over the next five years?

The growth area I see for my firm is more alignment and partnership with other law firms, as our clients require more global and around-the-clock services across jurisdictions. For instance, right now, for many of my cases, I collaborate with other law firms to get in-country advice for specific jurisdictions. That means a lot more inter-firm, cross-border collaborations to enable my firm to continue providing very personalised and individualised counsel while also adapting to the needs of my clients that require a more global solution to their immigration needs. Having a network of law firms I partner with helps our clients to navigate different immigration challenges and allows my firm to focus on real-time research, analysis and advice to address their varying needs.

Global Leader

Corporate Immigration 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Eugene Chow is a "first-rate lawyer" with in-depth knowledge of US and Hong Kong immigration laws.​

Biography

Eugene Chow is the principal of Chow King & Associates, a Hong Kong-based firm specialising in US, Hong Kong and international immigration and citizenship matters. Mr Chow’s boutique firm represents business investors and corporate multinational clients with employment visas and permanent residence and also has a niche practice representing American citizens who wish to relinquish their US citizenship, as well as individuals in the acquisition of a second citizenship in various jurisdictions to facilitate visa-free travel, for tax-planning purposes or as a hedge against negative economic or political developments in their countries of origin.

Mr Chow obtained his JD from Boston College Law School. A member of the Pennsylvania and California Bars, he has been a California Board-certified specialist in immigration and nationality law since 1989. "Certified specialist" is a designation conferred on lawyers with substantial experience in a specialty field, whose ability and experience in that field have been favourably evaluated by judges and other attorneys, and who have completed approved legal education programmes and passed a legal specialty examination.

Formerly on the board of two non-profit organisations which assist immigrants and refugees, Mr Chow is a frequent speaker at immigration conferences internationally and a regular contributing author to many legal publications including the 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2019 editions of AILA’s Immigration Options for Investors and Entrepreneurs; the Global Business Immigration Practice Guide by the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (LexisNexis, 2012, 2014–2016 editions); Corporate Immigration Review (Law Business Research, 2012–2019 editions) and Immigration Law: Jurisdictional Comparisons (European Lawyer Reference series, Thomson Reuters) (first edition, 2013), now Business Immigration: A Global Guide from Practical Law, second edition, 2017).

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