Jelle Kroes is co-founder of Kroes Advocaten, a boutique law firm that focuses purely on business immigration, ranging from highly skilled migrants and investor permits to compliance issues and employer sanctions. Mr Kroes holds an LLM from the University of Amsterdam and studied French law in Grenoble for two terms. He is the immediate past-chair of the immigration and nationality law committee of the International Bar Association (IBA), past chair of the immigration law committee of the Netherlands Bar Association and a member and co-founder of the Netherlands Immigration Practitioners Association (SVMA).
Describe your career to date.
I started my career with a full-service firm, fresh out of university – I hadn’t so much as seen an office building from the inside before, but there I was, assisting the Fortune 500s of this world with their legal conundrums. I started in administrative law, which had just got a boost by the introduction of the General Administrative Law act that same year. It was all new. The law harmonised legal remedies against administrative decisions, but we tried to stay out of that and to seek common ground with the government bodies involved to settle on amiable terms. I stumbled more or less by coincidence onto a particular type of administrative law: immigration. In immigration law, legal proceedings were the standard way of solving an issue. Practitioners and the government saw each other as the enemy. Finding a compromise was challenging, but I have always enjoyed fostering a constructive relationship with the immigration authorities, in spite of the antagonistic narrative. I specialised in immigration in 1997 and started my current firm in 2010. As one of the relatively few niche specialists in my country, I’ve served on many boards, including the association of immigration practitioners of which I was also a founder in 2008. Currently I am more focused on the IBA where I am on the Presidential Refugee Task Force, and an officer of the IBA Global Employment Institute (GEI). It’s a privilege to have such a diverse field of working activities.
What do you enjoy most about working in immigration law?
The beauty of our profession is that the law functions best if it remains invisible. As immigration lawyers we assist clients in obtaining what they are entitled to, and at the same time avoid claiming their rights too explicitly and frightening off the immigration officers involved. Our objective is to construct a cooperation between the applicant and the competent authority; if this turns out not to be fruitful, the law is still there to adjust the situation, as a safety net. Immigration authorities are trained to produce rejections; corporate immigration however is based on merit for the economy. This is a permanent paradox that makes our work appear in new colours every day.
What qualities make for an effective immigration lawyer in today’s climate?
First and foremost, you must have all the possible visa categories that could match a client’s demand at the tip of your fingers. Next, you must carefully manage expectations. If it’s in your nature to try and make things possible, your challenge is to be realistic in your assessment of the options.
What impact has technology had on your immigration practice in recent years?
Digitalisation. Most applications are now filed through online portals. We only have digital files; no more paper. This was unthinkable only a few years ago. Another thing is the diffusion of communications. Don’t expect for a minute that an auto-reply on your email will suffice to have a quiet holiday – a client will text, WhatsApp or Facebook you just as easily and expect a swift response.
What are the most significant challenges that covid-19 has brought to the types of immigration services requested?
Travel restrictions. More than ever it’s now actually about getting a client across the border or see them sent back home. Covid-19 doesn’t care about advance visas and permits.
How has your work with the immigration and nationality law committee of the International Bar Association enhanced your role in private practice?
The IBA is a great way to broaden your international network. As chair of the IBA immigration and nationality law committee I have not only met a vast number of colleagues within the global immigration community, but also lawyers in other disciplines such as tax and employment. As vice-chair of the IBA Global Employment Institute (GEI), this continues. The GEI’s mission is to develop a global and strategic approach to the main legal issues in the field of human resources for multinationals from all related legal angles: employment, immigration, diversity, remuneration etc. It puts immigration law into perspective and deepens the understanding of all disciplines involved.
In 2018, I was invited by the IBA president to set up a taskforce for the creation of a refugee evacuation visa. Working with prominent immigration and human rights scholars and practitioners from across the globe since then has been hugely inspiring.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own firm?
Build your firm organically. You may quickly have more clients than you can handle, but the people you hire must be trained carefully into understanding the practice fully. Only if you take the time and the focus to do this, can they grow into gems for the profession and into being ambassadors for your firm. Don’t worry if that means you sometimes have to refuse a new client for lack of time. We grew the team gradually and are very proud to have signed in 2020 our first home-grown equity partner.
Where, in your opinion, does the future of corporate immigration lie?
I see a growing interest for law firms. Law firms, as opposed to non-lawyer immigration providers, are bound by codes of conduct with high ethical standards. They can provide both sharp legal analysis and excellent client support. Immigration service providers are perfectly able to assist with run-of-the-mill work permits, but will they detect a complex issue in a timely manner? Compliance is of growing concern to companies, and law firms are better situated to manage that.
“He is the 'Dutch authority' in corporate immigration matters”
“Jelle is a very experienced lawyer”
Jelle Kroes is co-founder of Kroes Advocaten, a boutique law firm that focuses purely on business immigration, ranging from highly skilled migrants and investor permits to compliance issues and employer sanctions.
Mr Kroes holds an LLM from the University of Amsterdam and studied French law in Grenoble for two terms. He is the immediate past-chair of the immigration and nationality law committee of the International Bar Association (IBA), past chair of the immigration law committee of the Netherlands Bar Association and a member and co-founder of the Netherlands Immigration Practitioners Association (SVMA).
Jelle Kroes has been practising immigration law since 1997 and is frequently invited to speak at international conferences on topics of business immigration and nationality law. Mr Kroes has served as an expert adviser for the Ministry of Justice and Security in developing new immigration policies, as well as in migration policy projects for the European Commission such as the amended EU Blue Card Directive. He is the co-author of several multi-jurisdictional immigration practice guides, including those published by Lexis Nexis and Thomson Reuters, and The Corporate Immigration Review.
Mr Kroes is fluent in English and French and conversant in German and Spanish, and an active member of international networks such as the European Immigration Lawyers Network (EILN) and the Global Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (ABIL).
Kroes Advocaten also offers expert advice on family reunification and Dutch nationality, and has developed a niche practice in immigration and citizenship issues of elite sportspeople. In addition, the firm also practises EU law which includes EU long-term resident permits, blue cards and intra-corporate transferee permits.