Rogelio Caceres is a serial entrepreneur, currently serving as the founder and CEO of Global Residency & Citizenship Group (Global RCG), a startup enabling digital nomads to move abroad and stay compliant with the international employment laws.
Greg: Thanks for joining us on the show, Rogelio. Tell us about what you're working on.
Rogelio: We have launched a company based here in Miami that helps both employees, entrepreneurs, and companies either earn or acquire the right to live in about 45 countries around the world. So as a result of the pandemic, folks want to think about alternatives to always living in one country and how do you go about choosing the right country, the right program, and making that move happen. We're a platform that provides those solutions, whether investment based or personal background based or even temporary solutions like digital nomad visas.
G: I know your company is called Global RCG, but what are some of the programs? Are you launching them under the same brand or are you launching different programs for corporate and personal mobility solutions?
R: Yeah, so the Global Residency and Citizenship Group is the operating company that's sourced and built the platform of solutions that range from virtual residency. So folks might want to set up a company and have a bank account for their business overseas. Well, Estonia and Honduras provide that currently, Portugal starting in April will allow you to do that. All the way to what I want to move to Italy or Germany. My grandmother lived there before, can you process citizenship through dissent? So there's multiple different ways to do that and we haven't seen yet a platform where you can learn what you qualify for, select the different routes that you have in each country, and then execute that move to acquire or earn that residency.
So the brands that we've developed are situational. From the consumer side we have citizens of Bitcoin, which is our first consumer brand that was launched at the Bitcoin conference last June. Those are residency solutions for Bitcoiners. So it's in countries where crypto is not a four little word, if you will.
Countries like Malta, for example, Portugal, El Salvador. Coming up, we're launching something quite exciting for El Salvador. Two enterprise solutions where we go to US companies and help them reward their employees with years abroad, multiple or one, and that's called corporate nomad. So different types of brands for different types of products, but all under the umbrella of Global RCG.
G: So how did you get the idea for working on building a mobility solution? Typically Americans are known for not going abroad.
R: I know, you're right. The US has been the destination that immigrants strive to get to and Americans are happy to be a part of, but no one's really have a culture of moving around like Australians would or other types of nationalities. Indians for sure, the Indian diasporas is global. The background came from my experience, my former company promoting the US Golden Visa program. Many people don't know that the US does reward investors with Green Cards provided that their investment actually creates American jobs. It's called an EB-5 program.
And I co-founded a company back in 2014 that helps foreign qualified entrepreneurs and individuals earn residents here in the US. So I was all over the world, India, South Africa, Brazil, in particular countries that had low awareness that you can actually invest and obtain residents in the US. At first it was too good to be true and over time we built awareness and had good success in that endeavor. In 2019-20 through after the pandemic hit always the most important opportunity in this industry of investment migration was the US. But as you correctly noted, who would ever want to buy or frankly move somewhere else if they don't have to. There was not that catalyzing event that have people rethink if they wanted to put all their residency eggs in one basket, if you will.
So the original idea of the business was to just do what I've already done before, which is commercialize and launch investment migration programs, but to target the US with Caribbean passports, with Golden Visas and other investment based products. That was being first to market in a country this big, there's certainly going to be enough customers potentially to invest in those products. And that's how we started about a year ago, February 9th. I remember quite accurately when we incorporated on Capbase [inaudible], a day that we will always remember. But yes, so it's been out a year and that business of helping individuals figure out which fund to invest in Portugal or which property to buy in Montenegro. That's an interesting business, it's very B2C and word of mouth can do a lot of good things. But over time we saw opportunities and gaps in the solution that we could provide. And that's what really, I'm more actually excited about this new emphasis on the company side rather than just the consumer side.
G: So take us back a step in terms of how things work differently for corporations. Why are corporations concerned if their employees are working from a different location?
R: Well, every nation has laws, employment laws and regulations that control who can work there. So in the US has very stringent laws and unfortunately laws that are antiquated and not set up for success. And so people are familiar with the H-1B employment visa. It's a visa that's now awarded via a lottery system. And so hundreds of thousands of international students that are here that want to stay can't because they're not lucky enough to win a lottery. And obviously not a very good system. Other countries have their own laws. And so what US companies cannot permit is for their own employees, whether they're US born or foreign born, to roam the world and work for their companies without the proper authorization to work in those countries. And without setting up your own subsidiary there or without buying or earning the right to work from there, that is a recipe for litigation, for serious regulatory infraction risk.
G: I understand the potential liabilities, but I guess can't the company, and this is just playing devil's advocate, isn't it simpler to make them an independent contractor and if they file taxes in the US that's their business, the US contractor, and if they're technically outside of the US, if you're overseas and not on US soil 330 days of the year, you qualify for this foreign earned income exemption and therefore you wouldn't have to pay taxes on the first 110, 115K of your income. That's hypothetically it seems like if they're no longer a full-time employee, the contractor can choose to do the work from wherever they wish.
S: Yes. So it solves in some ways the ability for the employee perhaps to not remain so and be a contractor. But Portugal does not let anyone work from their national sovereignty country without permission to work there. And being a contractor of a US company is not a permission to work at any country, you need local permission.
G: Right. Technically you're non-compliant if you're on a tourist visa is what you're trying to say.
R: Yes, is Portugal in particular, any country roaming the streets and wifi coffee shops to see who's compliant and show me your papers? No, they love Americans working from their places. It's a risk that's too great to take for most companies. And the standard answer historically is yes, you can work remotely, yes, you can work from your home, yes, you might be able to move from New York to another state, but as soon as you ask for permission to work in a different country, the standard answer is when we set up a subsidiary there, we'll let you know. Or if you have the right to work there, show it to us and we'll wish you the best. But then what does an employee do? So it's a chicken and egg that has not been solved.
Luckily the pandemic led to countries thinking quite entrepreneurially and launching digital nomad visa programs, official programs that country sponsor and legal that specifically want foreign workers to stay year or even two or more. And as long as they only work for their foreign employer, they make a minimum amount of salary, which is typically three to $5,000 per year roughly. They have local health insurance, a non-criminal background countries are wide open. The first one was Barbados in July of 2020, and now there's over 18 or 20 countries around the world that offer this.
No one as though taking this great solution to a company and said, "Hey, do you know these exist? Do you know that through these visas you can reward your US based talent with what a lot of them want more than anything, to work as a digital nomad around the world and stay employed with that company. And that can happen simply by offering fully compliant, all-inclusive bundled mobility solutions." And that's what corporate nomads is. And that opportunity not only extends, Greg, to American workers, millennials or empty nesters in particular, but also very near to my heart as an immigrant, is foreign born STEM, foreign born MBAs that are here that have very limited career opportunities. All companies know is the H-1B, and they know that's not a permanent or a reliable employment option, up to luck.
What we've done is said, "Hey, company, hire anyone that you want on their talent alone." OPT is there for three years, optional practical training. Any international student that's in a STEM degree gets access to that. And then in year two or year three, transition this person either to Portugal or Germany under an EU Blue Card, to Canada under a global talent stream visa, to Dubai under a digital nomad visa, or Cayman Islands, or soon Costa Rica. And now you have access to this individual for a much longer period of time without any of the wasted effort and energy and worry about whether or not an H-1B will come through.
And what we've built in is a return route for those who want to return and get a Green Card. And so there's other US based solutions that are not lottery based, EB1C, L-1A, L-1B. Where an Indian, for example, Indian born engineer out of Berkeley is hired for three years in San Francisco, spends three years in Germany, maybe a year if they want somewhere else, they come back as long as they've acquired a little bit of managerial experience, this is defined as managing one or more persons, they can now avoid the H-1B altogether and get a Green Card through an EB1C.
G: So how did you find your first investors for the company?
R: At the same place we find our first customers. So that was a great place to be in. That place is the Miami Bitcoin Conference, the largest of its kind that was held in Miami in last June. We met with a lot of folks that were interested, Bitcoiners that wanted some type of residency solution, and many of them became clients. Well, thinking of two in particular became clients. And we've served them there. And as we start to talk about what we're doing, they expressed interest and they also ended up investing in the company. So it was quite a productive conference and there's no surprise that we've renewed for this year, but we'll be there back in April with a bigger booth. And I think a much more productive or transformative solution that is to help any company mobilize their human capital in ways that are accretive to their overall mission. And that is, I think to this.
G: I'm going to ask a philosophical question. The free movement of people and the opening of borders is something that I feel like is an ideal, but economically is very impractical. I don't know if anyone country is so open-minded about the future and how people will move around in the future and what will actually drive economic growth and value being created within their jurisdiction.
R: Well, the US certainly for being a land of immigrants, its immigration system is not conducive to this at all. There's no argument there. But for every US there's Canada, which has designed a specific program called the Global Talent Stream program, especially geared towards tech talent that is H-1B, if it was designed by people who actually wanted it to work.
G: It's a point based system, correct?
R: It's a point based system.
G: And then it's very efficient. If you meet the point criteria or exceed them, then you're approved nearly instantly. That's my understanding.
R: That's an accurate one. The EU Blue Card is EU wide and there, what the EU parliament has done is made it even easier. So they're moving in and leaning in and saying, "Hey, we're going to make it so that the minimum salary requirement is not one and a half times the local national salaries, only one times. That you can switch from EU country after 12 months, not 18." And so Germany, for example, where we've invested time and energy to build the infrastructure, and Portugal, Germany in particular, they have a 400,000 employee shortfall. All these countries are not dying off, but they're not producing enough of local homegrown talent. So they're leaning in saying, "Bring us your engineers, bring us your talented folks that want to create a life in Germany or Portugal."
So yeah, I think what haven't done a good job of, that's where we're serving as that bridge is connecting the programs and how they work to the decision makers in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, that when exposed to that, we'll see it as an opportunity to hire more talent. And in a remote world, if you're in Berlin or in Boston, yeah, there's a times difference, but in many ways it's that one that can be overcome. That's our hope. And we think we have a better mouse trap, if you will.
G: It's interesting to see the EU, which is very bureaucratic, come up with a program that is EU wide and actually approve it. Because this is one of the things where it's surprising because nationalism and Euro skepticism are more the prevailing trend these days as opposed to anything that would even give the hint of eroding national sovereignty or control over borders.
R: Yeah, listen, we're not surprised, but we're pleasantly... When the parliament, and I know it's not the word parliament, there's the commission or the EU branch that handles immigration, put forward this and passed it in September everything it did was to make it easier. Why? Because right now, two things. One Americans 990 or so, less than a thousand Americans took advantage of the EU Blue Card in Germany in 2019. 80% of EU Blue Cards are in Germany, number one. The number one country is India, but only 8,000 or so people. There is no cap on this like there is in the US. They would take anyone that met the qualifications, which are a job in a local company and that local company could be a subsidiary of Capbase. So Capbase could set up Capbase Portugal or Capbase Germany.
G: Could it be like a partner employer organization like Remote.com or Deal or something like that?
R: Yes. Or a Global Germany group, which we've set up. Any company that hires you and pays you a minimum salary with a contract where you're working there, they don't care if it's at a new company or an existing one. You could actually even invest in companies and earn the right to obtain the EU Blue Card if you serve as their advisor. There's multiple different ways for more high net worth folks to take advantage of it. But the in main EU Blue Cards are ideal mobility solutions for US companies to reward their employees with time in Europe and or recruit Indians from certain situations where they're at risk to Europe through the same program. So all it really is needed is a focus on these solutions and an ability to create that bridge between the company and their understanding of these programs.
G: Until that Blue Card program came about, and most people don't realize if you lived in Portugal and you wanted to live then in Germany transferring that visa was next to impossible.
R: Exactly. Now... See, what the EU did is they passed the program, only Germany really promoted it. Every other country would have their own version of a temporary worker program. And the EU Blue Card was the law of the land, but it was not as attractive as their alternatives. What this new resolution is done is mandate that, what's it called, the level playing field. The EU Blue Card cannot be any worse off in terms of its flexibility, [inaudible] than your local law. And the hope is that this will force the EU Blue Card to be the way to bring foreign workers in. And that will, we think, grow its popularity. But right now, any US company doesn't need to set up a subsidiary, they can simply use that like they're using it POs to hire Germans or Portugal, Portuguese, why not use it to hire or transfer Americans or foreign born? And our solution plugs into those POs in the payroll side by doing the mobility aspect, which is so important.
G: Interesting conversation. And it's interesting to hear about how the world is changing and where people want to work is changing. Thanks for joining us on the show, Rogelio.
R: Thank you very much, Greg. Always a pleasure.