On 9 January 2014 news outlets announced that the UK’s official migration advisers, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), have proposed changes to investor visas.

The proposals by the MAC comes as a result of the Government asking the MAC, in October 2013, to advise on whether the current investment limits required under the Tier 1 (investor) route are appropriate to deliver significant economic benefits for the UK.

In respect of a MAC commissioned National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) report, the MAC states the following:

The presence of skilled migrants has been linked to increased trade and investment flows between source and destination countries. It is also suggested that the potential gains from trade are greater for country-pairs which have less historical trade experience together and for whom the flow of migrants helps to realise these gains. NIESR also found that the available evidence points to a link between the presence of skilled migrants and innovation by firms, particularly in export-intensive sectors.

Immigration statistics released by the Home Office show that, in the four quarters to 2013 Q2, the total number of Tier 1 visas issued to main applicants were only 1,706, compared to 10,749 visas issued to Tier 2 (general) migrants.

Currently, a Tier 1 (investor) migrant must invest at least £1 million in the UK. Further, 75% of this investment must be invested by way of UK Government bonds or share or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies.

Professor Sir David Metcalf, who is the chairman of the MAC, has told the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee that most Tier 1 (investor) migrants invest in UK government bonds; however, even a £10 million investment pales in comparison to the £300 million which the Treasury sells every day to fund the deficit.

The Times article writes that the MAC is therefore proposing two new options for Tier 1 (investor) visas, which are that Tier 1 (investor) visas would be issued to applicants:

  • in exchange for donations to hospitals and universities; and
  • who are millionaires and who are willing to endow good causes, such as universities, colleges, and hospitals.