UK Tier 1 Investor Visa Alternatives


In its statement announcing the closure of the Tier 1 investor visa, the Home Office made no reference to opening a replacement or new route for investors. This is perhaps unsurprising, given the Tier 1 investor visa had been subject to government scrutiny for many years due to concerns about the source of applicants’ investment funds. Indeed, the visa route had previously been temporarily suspended and the criteria tightened. But the Government has now taken the decision to close the route altogether. What does this mean for foreign nationals looking to come to the UK?

In this guide, we consider alternatives to the UK’s Tier Investor visa.


Alternatives to the Tier 1 Investor Visa

For individuals looking to attain UK residency through investment, there are a number of visa options to consider. However, it is important to note that these routes align to the Home Office’s strategy of moving away from a ‘simple’ exchange of investment for residence and citizenship. Instead, business routes that are currently available generally require the visa holder to be active in managing their UK investment or business interests, such as being active in their UK company.


Innovator route

The Home Office has stated it will be reforming the Innovator route “to provide an ambitious investment route which works more effectively in support of the UK’s economy”. The objective is to ensure the visa holder actively works with their investments.

The Innovator route allows experienced business owners to set up a business in the UK. It allows you permission to stay in the UK with your family for up to 5 years, at which point you can become eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.

To apply for the Innovator route, you must first obtain endorsement from an authorising body, to certify that your business meets the necessary requirements of being innovative, viable and scaleable, and that you are committed to making the business work.

You will also need to make a minimum investment of £50,000 into the UK business.


UK start up visa

The Start Up route is for first-time business owners in the UK. The route is open to both graduates and non-graduates, and no initial funding is needed to be eligible.

The visa is available for a maximum of two years, after which point you will either have to apply to switch to another visa category, such as the Innovator visa, where you can continue to develop your business.

Applicants must first secure endorsement from a university or approved business sponsor. This process will require a business plan to be developed, detailing your business idea, strategies and projections.

If approved, you can then make your visa application to the Home Office.


Global Talent Visa

The UK’s Global Talent route allows individuals with exceptional credentials in their field of work to come to the UK to work. The eligibility criteria do not include a requirement to make an investment or to evidence access to a minimum level of funds.

The route offers fast-tracked settlement in the UK after 3 years, as opposed to 5 years under the old Investor visa.

The Global Talent route is open to established talent and to applicants who can show ‘promise’ and potential to become leaders in their field.

Professionals will be able to apply from fields including digital technology. This means the route could potentially be open to individuals with notable experience in financing and investing in tech-related businesses, as well as those in the digitech sector with either technical or business experience. Applicants would need to meet at least two of the following criteria:

  • Proof of a track record of innovation as a product-led digital technology company founder or senior executive, or as an employee working on a new digital field or concept; or
  • Proof of recognition for work done beyond the applicant’s field that contributes to its advancement; or
  • Proof that as a founder, senior executive, board member, or employee of a product-led digital technology company, you have made significant technical, commercial, or entrepreneurial contributions to the field; or
  • Proof of your exceptional ability in the field through academic contributions and research published or endorsed by an expert.

There are two stages to the application process: without a prize as listed in Appendix Global Talent: Prestigious Prizes, you first have to secure endorsement from an authorised body. Only with endorsement can you proceed to apply for the visa from the Home Office.


Scale up visa

Set to launch in Spring 2022, the new Scale Up visa has been designed to encourage innovation by making it easier to bring those who are ‘very highly skilled’ and ‘academically elite’ to work in qualifying UK businesses.

Scale Up businesses are those considered to be fast-growing with an annual average revenue or employment growth rate over a three-year period greater than 20%, and a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the three-year period.

More details are expected ahead of the scheme’s launch.


Ireland Immigrant Investor Programme

One alternative to a UK investor visa is to look at the Irish equivalent scheme. As well as offering a stable and globalised economy, Ireland has competitive corporate taxation levels, a high standard of living and access to the EU.

The Ireland Investor Immigrant Programme grants residency in Ireland to eligible investors and their families, as well as a path to Irish citizenship.

To be eligible for the programme, you will need to show you have a personal net worth of at least €2 million, and make one of four specific types of investments in Ireland.

After five years’ residency, you can become eligible to apply for Irish citizenship.


Need assistance?

Fundamentally, without the Tier 1 Investor visa, there is no longer a UK visa option offering residence or citizenship in exchange for making a ‘straightforward’ investment. Instead, immigration routes have been designed to require visa holders to actively manage their UK business interests and in some cases maintain endorsement as required by the visa category.

For advice on UK visa options for you and your family, speak to our UK immigration specialists. We can advise you based on your needs and circumstances, whether that is through a UK business, work or family visa, or whether you are considering applying to the Ireland Investor Programme.


Alternatives to the Tier 1 Investor visa FAQs

Is Tier 1 visa closed in UK?

Yes, the UK Government closed the Tier 1 Investor visa to all new applications from 17 February 2022.

Is there an alternative to the investment visa for the UK?

There are a number of alternative visa options but these each have their own criteria and obligations on the applicant, such as the Innovator and Start up routes for business owners and the Global Talent route for people with exceptional credentials in their field.


Last updated: 28 February 2022

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

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