The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which advises the UK Government on the economic aspects of migration, has published its much anticipated report on the Tier 1 (Investor) category. This category provides a way for migrants who are willing to invest £1 million in the UK to gain leave to enter or remain in the UK and eventual settlement for them and their families.
The report highlights that Tier 4 (General) students are the largest group of people who switch into the Tier 1 (Investor) category in the UK. In 2012, 24 per cent of in-country Tier 1 (Investor) visas were granted to individuals who were previously in the Tier 4 (General) category. This highlights the attractiveness of the category to wealthy international students.
The MAC has concluded that whilst the Tier 1 (Investor) route brings some benefits to UK residents and demonstrates that the UK is 'open for business', the benefits to the investor are greater than to the UK economy as a whole. The key findings and recommendations contained in the report are as follows:
The minimum investment threshold should be raised from £1 million to £2 million.
Some of the current restrictions on investment instruments should be relaxed in order to allow wider investment activity and to encourage investments that deliver greater economic benefit to the UK and increase investors' willingness to take risks.
The option of financing the investment with a loan should be removed.
The proportion of investment permitted in UK government bonds should either be restricted or removed altogether to move investment away from UK government bonds.
The report also recommends that the package of benefits associated with the premium investor routes (under which indefinite leave to remain can be attained after only two or three years) should be enhanced, including relaxing the residence requirements so that investors need only be in the UK for 90 days per year (rather than the current 185 days). At the same time, the MAC recommends that the number of premium visas should be limited to 100 per year to be disposed of at sealed bid auctions with a reserve price of £2.5 million. This recommendation has resulted in some commentators voicing concerns that British citizenship is effectively being put up for sale.
The Government will consider the recommendations contained in the report, with any changes to the Immigration Rules expected to come into force in April 2014. In light of the fact that some of the key Tier 1 (Investment) criteria are likely to become more onerous, any individuals wishing to submit applications under the category should consider doing so as soon as possible.