UK Investor Visa - Is The End Nigh?

The Tier One UK Investor visa route may be about to end. Baroness Hamwee and Lord Paddick have tabled an amendment to the 2015 immigration Bill in the House of Lords, proposing its abolition.

Therefore, high net worth individuals who want to enjoy the generous advantages the Investor visa offers need to plan and submit their applications as soon as possible.
Why the urgency? The proposed amendment, if passed, would come into force in January 2017. And not only does the £2 million required to invest need to be the applicant’s own funds (they cannot be borrowed) they need to be visible in the account 90 before the petitioner makes their application.

Why is the Investor visa being tabled for legislative extinction?

It is unclear why the Investor visa is being targeted. It is undoubtedly generous in the benefits it bequeaths on successful applicants, including:

  • there is no requirement for the applicant to be proficient in English
  • dependents can enter the UK with the applicant
  • applicants can travel in and out of the UK without it affecting their visa status
  • both the applicant and his or her spouse can work or study 
  • in five years (or less depending on the amount of money invested) the applicant can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain

One theory is that the retraction of the Investor visa is in response to the recent exposé unleashed by the Panama Papers. Britain, along with other countries, are under pressure to ‘clean up their house’ when it comes to individuals investing money acquired from less desirable sources or investing money off-shore to avoid tax.

Allegations of ‘buying a passport”, (if you invest £10 million you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after two years, British Citizenship after three) have also haunted the Investor visa. And evidence suggests that between 2008 and 2015, neither the banks nor the Home Office conducted checks on the legitimacy of the money invested through the Investor route.

Changes to the Investor visa in 2015

In 2015 the number of applications for a Tier 1 (Investor) Visa fell dramatically, from 1,172 the previous year to around 200. Aside from the economic and political challenges facing the Chinese and Russian economy, the main residence of visa applicants, blame was placed on the number of changes to the eligibility criteria, designed to weed out investors whose funds originated from dubious origins.

These changes included:

  • increasing the minimum investment funds required from £1 million to £2 million
  • the full sum must be invested in permissible investments as opposed to 75% under the old rules
  • the investment funds must be the applicants own rather than be acquired by a loan

UK banks must also conduct extensive due diligence as to the source and origin of investment funds.

Commentators have expressed their surprise over the move to shut down the Investor route because they feel that safeguards are now in place to secure the integrity of the visa. Evidence of this can be seen in the dramatic drop in applications since the amendments came into force.

Entrepreneur Visa – an alternative to the Investor Route?

One alternative to the Investor route is the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to this route when compared with the Investor visa; however, for investors who do not have the capital available to make an application before the Investor visa is discontinued, it may be the next best option.

Advantages

  • you can apply if you have investment funds of £50,000 or £200,00 to invest in your business
  • you can form an ‘entrepreneurial team’ with one other Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) applicant and share the same investment funds
  • if you have £200,000 worth of funds they can originate from a third party
  • dependents (your spouse and any children under 18 years) can come with you
  • you will be eligible for accelerated settlement upon completion of three years provided you fulfil one of the following requirements:
  1. create no fewer than 10 full time positions for resident workers; and/or
  2. generate a turnover of at least £5 million over a three- year period

Disadvantages

  • you must demonstrate a knowledge of English
  • you must pass the ‘genuine entrepreneur’ test to prove you have the education and experience to set up and successfully run a business in your chosen field
  • you will need to submit a comprehensive business plan
  • if you only invest £50,000 the funds must come from one of the following sources:
  1. a UK entrepreneurial seed funding competition endorsed by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI)
  2. a UK government department making funds available for the purpose of setting up or expanding a UK business
  3. a venture capital firm registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

Legal advice is essential when applying for a Tier One (Entrepreneur) Visa as almost half of all applications are refused.

Actions investors need to take

Wealth managers and advisors to high-net-worth individuals need to be strategising now if they have clients who wish to enter the UK on a Tier One (Investor) Visa. Not only must the £2 million in funds be collated, investment options need to be explored, as well as sorting out a family home and schools (if applicable).

If the Investor route is not a viable option, then the Tier One (Entrepreneur) Visa should be investigated as an alternative. Again, detailed planning is required, and applicants are often advised to come to the UK on a Business Visa to conduct market research and source suppliers and customers. This can add to the credibility of the application when it comes to passing the ‘genuine entrepreneur’ test.

To find out more about the Investor route please phone our office on 0207 936 9960 to make an appointment.

OTS Solicitors specialises in immigration law. Based in London, our expert immigration team is regarded as one of the best in the UK and has years of experience advising high net worth individuals and their advisors on gaining entry into Britain.

 

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