The Home Office announced last night that the Tier 1 (Investor) visa route will be suspended from midnight tomorrow, Friday 07 December, until new rules come in to force in 2019. The decision to suspend the visa program has reportedly been taken as part of reforms designed to tackle organised crime and money laundering.
Often referred to as the “golden visa”, the Tier 1 (Investor) visa provides a route to settlement in the UK for high net worth individuals who are capable of investing at least £2 million in to the UK economy.
The visa route has been gaining increasing popularity in recent years, with the majority of visas being granted to Chinese and Russian citizens. These figures have seemingly played a part in today’s decision to suspend the visa route. Following the Salisbury incident in September, the Home Office was reported as stating:
“We are reviewing all tier 1 visas granted before 5 April 2015, some of which are issued to wealthy Russians. We have not ruled out making further changes to the tier 1 investor route in order to ensure that it continues to work in the national interest.”
These changes are seemingly now afoot. Despite the lack of any official announcement from the Home Office, The BBC and The Guardian have reported that these changes will substantially alter the requirements of the visa.
Applicants were previously required to evidence ownership of a UK bank account and applications could be refused if there were reasonable doubts about the source of investment funds or that they had been acquired through unlawful conduct. This involved checks of the applicant’s criminal and immigration history, and gave the Home Office powers to look closely at any third party funding. From next year independent, regulated auditors will assess applicants’ financial and business interests and check that they have had control of the funds for at least 2 years.
This is certainly not the first time that the Tier 1 (Investor) route has come under scrutiny. In a "blind faith" period between 2008 and 2015, around 3,000 investors were granted a visa with weak or no checks undertaken on the source of their investments. Whilst the subsequent criticism led to tightening of the route in 2014 and 2015, the Home Office has since admitted that it has no idea where the 3,000 foreigners are now living or whether they are currently a UK resident.
With a statement of changes to the Immigration Rules being laid before Parliament today, it is likely that we will know more about the substance of the 2019 changes in due course. It should be noted, however, that “applications that have already been submitted will be considered in the normal way.” Those who were considering making their Tier 1(Investor) application will now have to consider alternative business visa routes until the suspension is lifted.
Alternatives routes to settlement in the UK in lieu of business and investment are available under the Immigration Rules. Applicants’ in the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category are required to evidence, notably, a minimum investment of £200,000 in to a UK business and can achieve settlement after five years residency under the visa route. Similarly individuals can apply to come to the UK as the sole representative of an overseas business. This route involves the creation of a UK subsidiary and allows the applicant to live and work for the subsidiary in the UK and achieve settlement after five years.
Our immigration solicitors regularly consult with foreign investors seeking assistance with investment and immigration to the UK. If you need assistance with your application, or are seeking advice in light of the above changes, please contact us for comprehensive, fully up-to-date advice.
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