The tier 1 Investor visa, which provides a fast track route to settlement for people willing to invest at least 2 million in the UK for a few years, was to be suspended from midnight 6 December 2018 until some time in 2019 when new rules were to be put in place. However and somewhat mystifyingly, the govt has backtracked. It is now saying this visa is not currently suspended but the Govt remains committed to reforming this visa route. A further announcement will be made in course.
Only technical changes were made to this visa by the Govt in July 2018. This suggests that at that time, no thought was being given to these changes. A lot has happened politically since then. The announcement to suspend this visa referred to financial crime and money laundering rather than the general principles of the visa.
The announcement to suspend was a sudden announcement. The announcement not to suspend comes on the back of the Brexit turmoil.
The govt says the reformed visa (once they change it) will require applicants to provide comprehensive audits of their financial and business interests and show they have had control of the £2m of investment funds required to obtain the tier 1 visa for at least two years. This all make good sense.
Applicants will no longer be able to invest in government bonds as part of the reforms and must invest in active and trading UK companies.
One thing that still does not make sense in our opinion is why these millions are available to be returned to the visa holder at the end of the visa period.
The Govt statistics on Tier 1 Investor Visas approved in the period March to June 2018 showed that 92 Tier 1 Investor visas were granted during the second quarter of this year down 4% from the 96 that were issued in Q1 . Chinese applicants (32) accounted for the lion share of applicants at c35%. There was also an increase in Russian applicants (13) on a quarter by quarter basis. Overall, year on year, the first half of 2018 saw a 17% increase in UK Investor Visa applicants.
The BBC and Guardian both report the Immigration Minister as saying:
“The UK will always be open to legitimate and genuine investors who are committed to helping our economy and businesses grow. However, I have been clear that we will not tolerate people who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the system.
That is why I am bringing forward these new measures which will make sure that only genuine investors, who intend to support UK businesses, can benefit from our immigration system.”
Other EU countries, notably Malta, Cyprus and Portugal, continue to have a similar visa scheme in effect for wealthy non EU citizens.
Tom Redfern – updated 11 December 2018