SUSPENDED: Tier 1 Investor visa scheme suspended on grounds of financial crime and money laundering offences
By Oshin Shahiean, of OTS Solicitors
Amidst all the Brexit news, the report that the government is suspending the Tier 1 Investor Visa scheme may have escaped most people. For top London immigration solicitors it is headline news given the impact of the suspension on investors.
The timing of the suspension gives would be Investor Visa applicants very little time to act.
Applicants for Tier 1 investment visa might think that they should wait until the lifting of the suspension and then apply for their Tier 1 visa. However, the best London immigration solicitors say that it is likely to be some considerable time before the lifting of the suspension and, when it is, there are no guarantees that those investors who are currently eligible to apply for a Tier 1 Investor Visa will be eligible under the new scheme rules.
Planned new Investor Visa audit process
The Immigration Minister has said that the lifting of the suspension of the Tier 1 Investor Visa scheme will only take place after an audit process is introduced. Independent auditors will conduct the audits. In addition to other eligibility criteria for the Tier 1 Investor Visa, the independent auditors will look at:
- The applicant’s financial interests; and
- The applicant’s business interests ; and
- Assess whether the applicant has had control of their investor funds for at least 2 years.
It is understood that the rationale behind the decision to suspend the Investor Visa scheme is motivated by a desire to stop those committing financial crimes and money laundering offences using the Investor Visa scheme as a means of bringing ‘’dirty money’’ into the UK.
- Commit to investing at least 2 million in the UK – the investment has to be made within 3 months of arrival in the UK ; and
- Have a UK bank account; and
- Be of good character.
There are additional criteria but from an investors point of view the granting of a Tier 1 Investor Visa enables the applicant to stay in the UK for 3 years and 4 months with the potential to apply to extend the visa. From the perspective of top London immigration solicitors one of the major draws of the Investor Visa scheme was that after 5 years the investor could apply for settled status or Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.
The Tier 1 Investor Visa scheme had many detractors with claims that Indefinite Leave to Remain was being bought by the rich with no audit trail being undertaken on the 2 million cash investment. The criticism escalated after 2011 when scheme rules were changed to say that if an investor put 10 million into investments in the UK they could acquire Indefinite Leave to Remain in 2 years, cutting the timescale by 3 years for the extra 8 million commitment.
The ‘’rich paying for visas’’ was not the only scheme criticism. The fact that many investors put the 2 million into gilts rather than trading companies in the UK was seen by many UK based business owners as a major drawback of the scheme as overseas investors were putting their 2 million investment into loans to the government rather than giving a boost to UK based companies by foreign investment.
Numbers of Investment visa applications
According to the latest figures there were 350 applications made for Tier 1 Investment visas last year. With each investor applicant committing to invest at least 2 million in the UK, as part of the visa process, the suspension could lead to a 700 million reduction in overseas investment in the UK.
The best London immigration solicitors put the figures at potentially higher than that as normally the investment would be coupled with a London house purchase of several million plus renovation costs and stamp duty. Furthermore if the Investor Visa applicant, and their family, spent time in the UK their discretionary spending was a real boost to the economy. London immigration solicitors anticipate that London will feel the impact of the suspension most keenly with estate agents perhaps being most affected by the immediate suspension of the Tier 1 Investment visa.
How can OTS Solicitors help?
OTS Solicitors are specialists in personal and business immigration and have substantial expertise in securing Tier 1 Investor Visas. OTS Solicitors expert Immigration advice is recognised by the legal directory of leading UK lawyers, Legal 500. The firm is ranked for business immigration services. In addition, OTS Solicitors have Law Society accredited solicitors status as trusted specialists in Immigration law.
For more information on Tier 1 Investor Visas and for advice on the implications of the scheme suspension or any other aspect of personal or business immigration law please call us on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment to speak to one of our experienced London immigration solicitors who will be happy to help.