The 2 Million Passport – Dispatches investigates the UK Investor visa

 
 

On the 22 July Channel 4’s award winning investigative affairs programme went undercover to investigate the “golden ticket visa”, officially called the tier 1 (investor) Visa. 

 
The premise of the programme was that tier 1 (investor) Visas enable foreign tycoons to bypass stringent immigration controls and to “buy British Citizenship” through investing £2 million into the UK, and after a few years then being eligible to apply for a British passport.    
With undercover reporters posing as relatives of a would be tier 1 (investor) Visa Russian applicant (with connections to Putin) and as the relatives of a potential Chinese investor (with military connections), the presenter Anthony Barnett highlighted concerns that professionals such as immigration solicitors and financial institutions are the Investor visa  gatekeepers, rather than Home Office officials.
 
Concerns about the tier 1 (investor) Visa are not new. In December 2018, the then immigration minister, Caroline Nokes, announced that the tier 1 (investor) Visa was suspended with immediate effect. Within a matter of days, there was a further Home Office announcement that stated the tier 1 (investor) Visa was not suspended but changes to the Investor visa would be implemented.
 
It was not until the 29 March 2019, that the Home Office released its new guidance on applications for UK tier 1 (investor) Visas. Top London immigration solicitors poured over the immigration Rule changes to give the best tier 1 (investor) Visa advice to would be “golden ticket” applicants.
 
The March 2019 changes to the Investor visa aimed to improve:
 

• Due diligence to ensure that investor funds are “clean”; and 

• The value of the £2 million investment into the UK economy. 

 
The Dispatches television programme called into question whether further changes to the tier 1 (investor) Visa are required. Anthony Barnett also floated whether it was fair for those with £2 million to be able to bypass other visa application routes by virtue of their wealth, whatever the source of their money and however strict the due diligence tests.
 

How can OTS Solicitors help? 

 
OTS Solicitors are specialists in personal and business immigration law. The Legal 500 directory ranks OTS Solicitors for business immigration services. In addition, OTS Solicitors have Law Society accredited solicitors’ status as trusted specialists in immigration law. The firm featured in the BBC 2 series “Who should get to stay in the UK?”.
 
For advice on applying for an Investor Visas or for information on 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.
 

The tier 1 (investor) Visa

 
When anyone mentions “golden tickets” those of us, of a certain age, hark back to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In the film the “golden tickets” came with a catch and most of the Top London immigration solicitors would say that a tier 1 (investor) Visa is not as easy to obtain as it was portrayed on the Channel 4 programme. There are catches. 
 

The investor funds 

 
Top London immigration solicitors advise that an investor cannot simply arrive in the UK with £2 million in cash and secure a tier 1 (investor) Visa. immigration Rules require:
 

• That the source of the £2 million investment funds has to be either:

o Disclosed if the funds have been held by the applicant for less than two years prior to the date of the visa application (this is an increase from the previous 90 days rule); or

o The applicant has to be able to demonstrate that the £2 million investment funds have been held by them for two years or more; 

• A requirement that a UK bank confirms they have carried out due diligence checks and “Know Your Customer” enquiries prior to the applicant being authorised to open a UK bank account; and 

• The removal of UK government bonds as an investment option under the Investor visa; and 

• Tightening the definition of “active and trading” UK companies for the purposes of the investment. Evidence is required that a company into which the applicant wants to invest the £2 million has a substantial presence in the UK.

 

Due Diligence and the tier 1 (investor) Visa  

 
According to the Dispatches programme, the National Crime Agency estimates that economic crime, including money laundering, runs into billions of pounds each year. In the investigative programme, the Home Office came under fire for leaving the due diligence tests to immigration solicitors and financial institutions, with the allegation being that professionals have a stake in securing tier 1 (investor) Visa for clients.
 
Dame Margaret Hodge and Jonathan Fisher QC both criticised the robustness of the current due diligence testing for tier 1 (investor) visas and called for:
 

• A requirement that all of an investor’s wealth is subject to the due diligence test and not just the required £2 million investment; and 

• There is independent due diligence testing or “wealth audit” undertaken by Home Office officials rather than banks and financial institutions; and 

• There is a review of historic tier 1 (investor) Visa applications.

 

tier 1 (investor) Visas and the UK economy

 
Although the Channel 4 Dispatches programme was heavily critical of the due diligence, testing of tier 1 (investor) Visa applicants there was little mention of the boost to the UK economy by the investments made into British industry by visa applicants. In the view of Top London immigration solicitors, the change in the immigration Rules in March 2019 has certainly improved how beneficial each £2 million investment is to the UK economy.   
 

The tier 1 (investor) Visa and the Asylum seeker 

 
To the Top London immigration solicitors one of the best things that the Channel 4 Dispatches programme “The 2 Million Passport” highlighted is the difference between the Home Office treatment of the tier 1 (investor) Visa applicant and the experience of many Asylum seekers claiming Asylum. Whilst Top London immigration solicitors ensure that whatever the type of visa an applicant is applying for, the applicant gets the best in advice, care and speed, the same can perhaps not be said of the Home Office. 
 
The programme featured Jamal, an Asylum seeker who had had his application for Asylum refused by the Home Office. His immigration case was contrasted with that of the tier 1 (investor) Visa applicant whose application can be processed quickly and without extensive analysis of background information.   
 
Many sections of the public may have little sympathy for Asylum seekers, but Dispatches had chosen Jamal with care, a former Afghan translator who had put his life at risk in the service of British Allied forces. Jamal fears execution by the Taliban if he is forced to return to Afghanistan. In his words, Jamal said that he thought that he had worked for the British with dignity and honour, but on arrival in the UK and placement in a detention centre, he felt he was no longer a “member of the team”, or even classed as human by the Home Office. 
 
Whilst the Dispatches programme called for further reforms of the tier 1 (investor) Visa application process, Top London immigration solicitors cannot help but think that perhaps the best thing to come out of  the programme is the publicity of the plight of Jamal and the many other Asylum seekers like him. 
 

The message for tier 1 (investor) Visa applicants

 

Top London immigration solicitors anticipate further change to the tier 1 (investor) Visa application process. Therefore, the best advice, if you are contemplating applying for a tier 1 (investor) Visa, is to take expert legal advice on whether to make the application now.
    

How can OTS Solicitors help? 

 
London based OTS Solicitors specialise in securing all types of business visas and have a streamlined Investor visa process for high net worth individuals or their families who  want to quickly and discreetly secure an Investor visa.
The leading law directory, The Legal 500, ranks OTS Solicitors for business immigration services. In addition, OTS Solicitors have Law Society accredited solicitors’ status as trusted specialists in immigration law.
 
For information on applying for an Investor visas 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.
 

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