As of the 17th February 2022, the UK Government official website has stated that it is no longer possible to apply for a new Tier 1 (Investor) visa. The closure of this route affects all new applicants from all nationalities with immediate effect. This means that if an applicant was preparing to submit his Investor visa petition to the Home Office, the route is no longer valid. The Investor visa route has been discussed publicly for over a few years, and many articles can be found discussing the advantages and the disadvantages of the route. The Home Office has provided “Security concerns” as the reason for the immediate closure of the scheme.
If someone already applied and paid for the visa or was already granted this visa (or had one in the last 12 months, and it was their most recent visa), they can still apply to extend their visa for 2 years, for family members to join them and to settle in the UK (indefinite leave to remain). Applications for leave to remain from existing Investor visa holders must be made before 17 February 2026. Applications for indefinite leave must be made before 17 February 2028. (GOV.UK)
The Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Home Department by Command of Her Majesty, detailed that the UK Investor Visa route closed as of 4pm GMT on 17 February 2022.
What was the Investor Visa?
The Tier 1 (Investor) visa was initially introduced in 1994, further amended in 2008, updated several times including in 2015 and 2019. The Investor Visa route has been amended over the years in an attempt to tighten the rules, add financial checks to prevent money laundering and also included further requirements such as that applicants show proof of a UK bank account.
The Investor Visa was a route to settlement available to applicants who were in a position to invest funds in share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies. The investment amounts have changed, but prior to the closure of the scheme stood at a minimum amount of at least £2m. This option enabled wealthy individuals from outside the EU to invest in the UK as a visa route to settlement.
Applicants investing at least £2m could potentially apply for settlement within five years, an investment of £5m would enable an application after three years and a £10m investment would shorten the wait to a mere two years. Successful applicants were able to apply for their family dependents to join them, apply to extend their stay under the visa, and while meeting the relevant criteria apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. This visa route has been referred to as the “golden visa”. apparently, due to the eligibility criteria. Few other countries offer this option, including the United States and Canada.
Security concerns –
Despite the fact this route has been used by wealthy individuals from all around the world, this route has been under review for some time, focusing on Russian nationals, especially following the political situation and long history of hostile engagement between the Russian (previously Soviet) intelligence services and their UK counterparts. The issue of concern presently is associated with Russia. This may have intensified due to the current political climate and Ukraine.
The Parliament’s intelligence and security committee warned in relation to Russia, in 2020 that:
“…What is now clear is that it was in fact counter-productive, in that it offered ideal
mechanisms by which illicit finance could be recycled through what has been referred to as the London ‘laundromat’…”
Concern has been expressed by UK politicians as well as Government officials that this route was open to abuse and security concerns. For example, cases where individuals who acquired their wealth illegitimately and/or were associated with wider corruption, were making use of the scheme. Investigations were undertaken searching for evidence of money laundering.
The Home Office states that in line with their “new plan for immigration” settlement in the UK will now be conditional on applicants:
“…executing an investment strategy that can show genuine job creation and other tangible economic impacts – passively holding UK investments will no longer be enough to obtain settlement. ”
The Secretary of State for the Home Department; Rt Hon Priti Patel MP stated that:
“…Closing this route is just the start of our renewed crackdown on fraud and illicit finance. We will be publishing a fraud action plan, while the forthcoming Economic Crime Bill will crack down on people abusing our financial institutions and better protect the taxpayer…”
The UK will no doubt wish to continue to encourage legitimate investment, innovation, and job creation in the UK for the benefit of the residents and UK economic growth. It will be interesting to see the development of the immigration rules while balancing the competing values and considerations. With the previous Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa also closing, the possible routes for a financial investor remain with the Tier 1 Innovator or Start-up visa. These require endorsement and close scrutiny, but the investment levels are much lower, starting at 50,000 instead of 2 million pounds. The Tier 1 Innovator visa also grants Permanent residency after 3 years in certain circumstances too. For more renowned applicants who can prove media and publications, the Tier 1 Global Talent Visa may also be an appropriate route too.