Jelle Kroes is co-founder of Kroes Advocaten, a boutique law firm that focuses 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, 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).
What inspired you to specialise in immigration law?
The beauty of the legal profession is that the law functions best if it remains invisible. As immigration lawyers we assist clients in obtaining what they are entitled to, at the same time without claiming their rights too explicitly. Our objective is to achieve balanced cooperation between the applicant and the authorities – a human conversation. If the balance is broken, the law is still there to restore it. Immigration authorities are generally 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 did you find most challenging about establishing your own firm?
Starting off with two partners with not even a secretary, we kept a lot of balls up in the air! Our first challenge was to win the trust and respect of our clients that we more or less took for granted when we still worked for established law firms. Commitment, sharp analysis, impeccable ethics and excellent communication are the tools at your disposal to grow your brand. In this competitive market, clients demand dedication but also an impeccable reputation. A good name with the immigration authorities is also crucial for being able to achieve the best results for your clients.
The second challenge was to grow the firm and grow it organically. No matter how brilliant the people you hire are, they need to be trained carefully into understanding the practice fully. Only if you do this properly, can they grow into gems for the profession and into being ambassadors for your firm on their own merit. We grew the team gradually and patiently, and we are very proud to have just recently signed our first home-grown equity partner.
In what ways does Kroes Advocaten distinguish itself from the competition?
Our website says: “We value excellence, cooperation and integrity. We put these values into practice every day.”
This apparently catches on. Our client base is consistently growing, and we increasingly receive referrals and instructions from our competitors, for example to solve a hyper-specialised issue, or if they are conflicted. We try to act in full consciousness of the interests of all the parties involved. Since those referrals keep coming in, we apparently succeed in working for other parties’ clients without prejudice of their own relationship with the client.
A lot of words to explain that we are trustworthy, haha!
How has the role of immigration lawyer developed since you first began practising?
The firm where I started had in its name the English subtitle Immigration Lawyers. This was completely out of the box at the time; immigration lawyers were associated with refugees and undocumented aliens. We assisted many undocumented individuals, but we wore a suit and tie to the office, which made us acceptable for commercial law firms to send us their clients. At conferences you got the feeling that often immigration lawyers thought of us as the enemy. Some colleagues treated us as if we had a contagious disease.
Companies hired lawyers more frequently for immigration work and the market became more commercial. A major shift took place in 2004 when the knowledge migrant scheme was introduced, which seemed to be so straightforward that we feared being pushed out of business. It didn’t happen, as permits became available to smaller companies. Our role has shifted more towards streamlining processes, and ensuring compliance. What hasn’t changed is that behind every case there is a person or a family that depends on you for a big step in their lives, which always makes it rewarding.
What has been your most memorable case to date?
That’s easy: the case of the Ivorian football player Salomon Kalou. A textbook example of accelerated naturalisation, as he was formally selected for the Dutch national team. He had, however, the misfortune of encountering a Minister of Immigration who decided to use his case for only one purpose: to profile herself as a populist leader. As Kalou kept winning his case in the courts, she kept turning his request down, reiterating that football is important, but “a Dutch passport is the top prize”. Kalou ultimately chose to play for Ivory Coast. The case got full attention in the national press which temporarily turned my life into a whirlpool. To the astonishment of many, this politician went on to accumulate an all-time record of personal votes in the next general elections. All in all an educational experience!
How has the development of EU immigration law in recent years affected your practice?
Drastically. There are now two work permit categories based directly on EU law, enriching the palette of visa categories in a very welcome way, despite all the anti-immigration rhetoric!
Where, in your opinion, does the future of corporate immigration lie?
I see a growing interest for law firms applying high ethical standards and with the ability to offer both sharp legal analysis and excellent client support. Immigration service providers of all sorts have come up like mushrooms. They are perfectly able to assist with run-of-the-mill work permits, but will they detect a complex issue in a timely manner? We see clients coming to us to pick up the pieces who might have been better off using us in the first place.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
Keep things simple. Lawyers provide solutions to a problem, but the solution must not become a problem in itself.
Jelle Kroes is “a leading authority in Europe” for business immigration matters and is highlighted as "very knowledgeable and great to work with”.
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.