For high net worth individuals from outside of Europe, the Tier 1 (Investor) Visa offers one of the most attractive routes to settlement in Britain. And under the current scheme, the more that investors put into the UK economy, the sooner British Citizenship for Tier 1 investors becomes available.
The Tier 1 Investor Visa application process is, however, far from straightforward and subsequent citizenship is not always guaranteed.
Yet the UK – with its high standard of living and world-class education system among many other advantages – continues to appeal to wealthy individuals and their immediate families as a destination for settlement.
For those looking to set down roots in Britain, does the Tier 1 (Investor) visa offer the best route?
Access to the UK for investors
Competition among countries to attract global investors and their liquid assets remains strong. Economies want to benefit from the wealth, employment and wider social contribution that investors bring.
As a result, many economies have developed highly attractive ‘golden visas’ to entice wealthy applicants.
In particular, European countries such as Portugal, Malta and Cyprus offer relatively less complex application processes and lower investment thresholds than the current UK Tier 1 (Investor) visa.
This has resulted in many investors seeking to gain entry and eventual settlement in the UK via another EU member state with less stringent visa and investment criteria.
However, as Britain prepares to leave Europe, the question is how long this strategy will remain open.
For investors in the future, settlement in Britain under the current system is likely to only be available via the UK Tier 1 visa route.
Tier 1 (Investor) Visa Applications
In 2015, 192 UK Tier 1 investor visas were granted, a marked drop from the 1,172 issued in the previous 12 months.
A number of factors have contributed to the fall in numbers. Tier 1 application changes in November 2014 saw the minimum investment threshold double from £1 million to £2 million.
Rules introduced in April 2015 require Tier 1 investor applicants to have a UK bank account and undergo the associated due diligence procedures.
And difficult economic conditions in countries such as China and Russia, where the majority of investor visa applicants had been originating, have resulted in fewer investors looking to invest abroad.
The present challenge in attracting inward investment to the UK was the decision to leave Europe.
Since the referendum, Britain’s economy has endured a period of uncertainty and conjecture as to its future position in global and European markets.
But as we emerge from the initial aftermath of the referendum, opinion among credible sources is shifting to one of confidence and positivity toward the UK economy and its future prospects.
Most recently the World Trade Organisation went on record to state Britain will avoid a recession following the Brexit vote.
As the UK prepares to leave Europe and compete on a global scale as an independent economy, it seems its proposition as an investment centre and economic power has to undergo a transformation. The perks of the UK’s previous membership to the EU club will need to be replaced by other, valuable benefits for investors.
Growing confidence in the UK’s financial future, combined with the continued appeal of UK settlement among high net worth individuals, may stand Britain in good stead as a prospect for investment and a competitive force on a global – and European – stage.
Applying for a Tier 1 Investor Visa
The Tier 1 (Investor) Visa is aimed at high net worth individuals who are looking to invest financially in the UK.
It was developed to attract investment to the UK of substantial sums from investors outside of Europe.
To be eligible to apply for a Tier 1 investor visa:
- you must have a minimum of £2 million
- the sum must be within your full control
- the sum must be held in a regulated financial institution
- the sum must be disposable in the UK
- you must have opened an account within a UK regulated bank
- investment must be made in UK government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies.
There is no requirement to demonstrate English language ability. And while you will be permitted to work and study in the UK, there is no obligation as with many other visas.
In addition to the Tier 1 conditions, the Immigration Rules still apply which look, for example, at your previous immigration history.
You must also provide an overseas criminal record certificate for each country you have resided in continuously for 12 months or more in the 10 years prior to your application.
UK settlement for Tier 1 Investors
The Tier 1 Investor visa is temporary, permitting entry into the UK for a maximum of three years and four months.
You can apply to extend this visa for another two years, or you can apply to settle permanently in the UK:
- after two years if you invest £10 million, or
- after three years if you invest £5 million, or
- after five years if you invest £2 million.
As part of the process, you will be subject to the relevant eligibility criteria for British Citizenship.
However, any dependent family members that you bring with you must wait five years before they are eligible for settlement.