The Tier 1 Investor Visa has been temporarily suspended with effect from Friday 7th December.
The Home Office has announced it will be halting investor visa applications while an audit is carried out into current eligibility requirements.
The Tier 1 investor visa permits non-EEA nationals to come to the UK where they have invested a minimum of £2million, with fast-tracked qualification for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Why has the Government suspended the route?
Introduced in 2008, the intention behind the investor visa was to attract investment from foreign nationals, while offering fast-tracked eligibility for British citizenship – acting as a so-called ‘Golden Visa’.
To qualify, the investment must be made in UK government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies.
In 2017, more than 1,000 investor visas were issued. The first half of 2018 saw a 17% increase in applications against the same period in 2017. The majority of applicants were Chinese and Russian nationals, with visas also granted to investors from Australia, Hong Kong and the US.
Concerns have since been made that the route may be being used to launder money into the UK.
Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said: “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.”
It is not a wholly surprising move, given events earlier this year when Roman Abramovich withdrew his Tier 1 investor extension application, in response to the heightened scrutiny facing the visa applicants.
Will the investor visa rules be changed?
The Home Office has advised there will be an audit of the current investor visa route, with a view to tightening the eligibility requirements.
We expect the route will be re-opened following the introduction of revised rules. Specifically, we predict changes to be made affecting:
- The types of investments permitted under the route – guilts to be removed from the permissible list and likely replaced with an Irish-style programme of investment directing funds to pooled, government-backed investments with clear economic benefit to the UK.
- Who is responsible for scrutinising funds – independent, regulated auditors will assess applicants’ financial and business interests, rather than Home Office case workers.
- More transparency of source of funds – applicants to provide comprehensive audits of all financial and business interests.
- Extending the required period of control of funds – applicants to show control of the funds for at least two years, extending the current 90 day requirement.
Once the route resumes, tier 1 investor visa applicants should expect new rules that place considerably more burden on evidentiary requirements and tighter restrictions on the type of investment activity that qualifies under the route.
We will continue to keep you updated of changes to the rules once confirmed by the Government.
Concerned about your Tier 1 investor extension application?
If you are concerned about the impact of the suspension on your initial or extension application, contact our Tier 1 specialists. We can advise on the current status of applications and the requirements for eligibility.