Individuals looking to attain British citizenship by investment should consider the Tier 1 (Investor) visa.
The Tier 1 investor category provides a fast-tracked route for investors to British citizenship. This specialist investment visa allows non-EEA nationals to reside in the UK and ultimately become eligible for UK citizenship where they satisfy certain eligibility criteria. Applicants, for example, have to invest a minimum amount of investment into the UK and maintain that investment during their residency.
Compared with other UK immigration routes, the Tier 1 investor visa is relatively relaxed in the activities it allows and prohibits. A Tier 1 (Investor) visa permits the holder to live, work and study in the UK for up to three years and four months. The applicant’s spouse and any children under the age of 18 years can also apply to join the principal visa holder as dependants. Your children will be able to take advantage of the UK’s world-class education system.
With a Tier 1 investor visa, you have to make investments in active and trading UK-registered companies, with no donation required. You may also be able to benefit from the non-domiciled tax regime for residents in the UK.
Application processing for the Tier 1 investor visa is typically faster than other routes, can be completed within as little as 4 weeks.
However, holding a Tier 1 (Investor) visa does not allow you to receive public funds, such as benefits and tax credits, on the basis that you have sufficient private funds to be able to live in the UK.
In addition, you may not work professionally as a sportsperson or coach or, except in specific cases, train as a doctor or dentist.
Tier 1 (Investor) visa: UK citizenship by investment?
A key feature of the investor visa is that it can lead to UK citizenship for the visa holder and their visa dependants.
It is possible to apply to extend your Tier 1 (Investor) visa for a further two years after the initial visa period, which you have to do before your current visa expires.
The holder of a Tier 1 (Investor) visa can apply to settle in the UK under Indefinite Leave To Remain in the UK (ILR) after a certain period of time. This varies depending on the amount that you have invested in the UK. If you:
- Maintain your original £2 million investment, you can apply for ILR after five years;
- Increase your investment to £5 million, you can apply for ILR after three years; and
- Increase your investment to £10 million, you can apply for ILR after two years.
With 12 months of ILR, you then become eligible to apply to naturalise as a British citizen. To apply, you must:
- have been resident in the UK for at least five years (the residential qualifying period);
- have been physically in the UK on the exact day five years prior to the application date;
- not have been outside of the UK for more than 450 days in the residential qualifying period; and
- not have been outside of the UK for more than 90 days in the previous 12 months.
You will also need to show you have passed the Life in the UK test, that you meet the English language requirement and that you satisfy the general grounds for admissibility such as passing the good character requirement.
If you are granted citizenship, you can apply for a British passport. A British passport enables you to travel visa-free to over 150 countries, including the USA under the visa waiver program.
Tier 1 (Investor) visa eligibility
For the Tier 1 investor visa to be open to you as a route to British citizenship by investment, you will need to satisfy the visa eligibility requirements. You must:
- have at least £2 million to invest in the UK;
- be a national of a non-EEA country; and
- be at least 18 years of age.
You will not need to pass any English language requirements for the investor visa, although this is a criteria if you subsequently apply for ILR and citizenship.
In addition, the funds:
- cannot be in assets or property;
- must be yours or belong to your spouse or partner;
- must be deposited in an account at a UK regulated financial institution;
- must be in pounds sterling;
- must be able to be transferred to, and spent in, the UK; and
- must be invested in an actively trading company which is registered in the UK.
No later than 90 days after receiving your visa, the funds must be invested in share and/or loan capital in an actively trading company which is registered in the UK and an investment of at least £2 million needs to be maintained throughout the visa period, although it is permitted to withdraw income earned from the investment.
It is important that you consider these investments carefully as some types are not allowed under the visa terms, such as, investment in certain property companies and open-ended investment companies or OEICs.
If you decide to sell an investment, a new investment must be acquired for no less than the sold price. The new investment must be purchased by the earlier of the end of the reporting period or the date falling six months after the sale.
Although the funds do not need to be in the UK at the time of application, it is important that you check for any regulations or sanctions in the country in which they are held as these could cause difficulties in transferring the funds to the UK.
What is the application process for a Tier 1 (Investor) visa?
The application for a Tier 1 (Investor) visa cannot be made more than three months before you travel to the UK.
In order to apply for a Tier 1 (Investor) visa, you will in most cases need to make an online application.
Extensive documents and evidence to support your eligibility and that the investment funds meet the criteria must be provided as part of the application process. The applicant documents include:
- a valid passport with at least one blank page or another form of identification which can be used for travel; and
- a criminal record certificate.
A criminal record certificate is required to be provided in relation to any country in which you have lived for at least one year in the last ten years. This one-year period does not need to be continuous. The certificate must be recent, that is, provided within six months of your visa application.
Applicants from certain countries will also need to undertake a tuberculosis test and provide the results to the Home Office.
The investment fund documents primarily relate to evidencing the applicant’s ownership of the funds and comprise:
- Evidence of the amount and where it is held
- Confirmation of the source of the funds if the applicant has held them for less than two years
- Confirmation that the funds can be converted into pounds sterling and can be moved to the UK, assuming that they are held outside of the UK at the time of application
- Evidence that the applicant has a bank account with a UK regulated financial institution
If the funds belong to your spouse or partner, additional evidence will be required as follows:
- Proof that you and your partner have been in a relationship for over two years or are married, such as a marriage certificate, joint mortgage documents, joint bank account documents, child’s birth certificate showing both partners as parents, a life insurance policy stating the other partner as the beneficiary and so on;
- A declaration from your spouse or partner that you are permitted to control the funds in the UK; and
- A document from a legal adviser confirming that the permission declaration is valid.
A certified translation will also be required if any of the application documents are not written in English or Welsh.
In addition, you are required to submit your biometric details so that you can be granted a biometric residence permit.
The Home Office should inform you of its decision regarding your application within three to four weeks of your application date. In the event that any documents are not provided or are incorrect, the Home Office will contact you and require you to provide the correct documents within ten working days.
How much does a Tier 1 (Investor) visa cost?
The current application fee for a Tier 1 (Investor) visa is £1623 (as at October 2019). In addition, you will need to pay the Immigration healthcare surcharge of £400 per year for the duration of the visa.
What happens once my application has been submitted?
If you are granted a Tier 1 (Investor) visa and your application was made in the UK, your residence permit will be sent to you. If, however, your application was made from outside the UK, you will need to collect your residence permit once you arrive in the UK. This will be from either a Post Office or your sponsor (if applicable). The collection point will be set out in the decision letter that you receive from the Home Office.
It is important that your residence permit is collected no later than ten days after your arrival date as stated in your application, notwithstanding the actual date of your arrival. For example, if your application stated that you would arrive in the UK on 2 September, you must collect your residence permit by 12 September, even if your actual arrival date was 10 September.
If your application for a Tier 1 (Investor) visa is not successful, take advice on your options in light of the grounds for refusal.
Alternatives to the Tier 1 (Investor) visa for citizenship by investment
There are various visa options to reside in the UK and it may be that an alternative to the Tier 1 (Investor) visa is more appropriate for you for citizenship by investment. For example, the Innovator visa is directed at entrepreneurs. To apply for the Innovator visa, you must satisfy the following requirements:
- be able to obtain at least £50,000 for use in your business;
- show a viable business concept which has the support of an endorsing body in the UK. You will need a business plan and evidence that you are active in the business, as well as evidence of your qualifications and experience in running a business;
- provide evidence that you have the necessary funds to live in the UK;
- employ at least two people in the business; and
- have achieved the upper intermediate (B2) level of English.
The innovator can lead to UK settlement after 3 years if you are eligible.
While the investment amount is considerably less than the investor visa, you will under the innovator route have to show you will be active in directing the business.
Do you need advice about UK citizenship by investment?
The route from UK visa to residency and citizenship is challenging to navigate. It requires careful planning of the investment activity to ensure compliance with the strict Home Office requirements. Each individual application will demand extensive preparation to evidence your eligibility as an individual and your investment activity.
We work closely with investors, wealth managers, leading UK banks and other advisors in preparing and submitting visa applications for investors, entrepreneurs and their families.
As a dedicated team of immigration lawyers we can assist you with:
- A consultation to advise on the relevant requirements and documentation requirements
- Initial applications from outside and inside the United Kingdom
- Extension applications
- Applications for indefinite leave to remain under the ordinary and accelerated routes
- Appeals against any negative decisions made inside the UK
- Requests for the administrative review of any negative decisions made outside the UK
- Applications for permission to apply for Judicial Review where necessary
- Any other advice or assistance that you may require
- Applying for citizenship by investment
UK immigration rules are subject to constant change and revision, making it critical that applicants obtain up-to-date legal advice before making their applications. As specialists in UK immigration, we work with individuals from across the globe seeking residency and citizenship in the UK. We can support you and your family through the Home Office application process, providing expert advice and assistance to overseas investors looking to enter the UK through the Tier 1 investor visa category.