Under the UK’s Tier 1 scheme, the investor visa offers temporary leave for foreign nationals to carry out permitted investment activity in the UK, provided a minimum investment is met.

In 2014/15, the eligibility criteria for the Tier 1 investor route were substantially restricted – doubling the minimum investment requirement from £1 million to £2 million for all new investors. As a result, the numbers of new investors coming to the UK is now far below those that preceded the rule change in November 2014 - new applications have reduced by 84 per cent.

That said, according to Home Office figures, in 2017 there was an increase in the arrival of new Tier 1 Investors compared to 2016, notwithstanding the overall fall in UK net migration. This suggests the UK remains an attractive destination for wealthy foreign investors.

Those looking to come to the UK to invest will be subject to a stringent application process, to allow the Home Office to determine whether the applicant meets the eligibility criteria and general grounds for entry.  

Importantly, it is not only new applicants that are subject to Home Office scrutiny. Existing Tier 1 investor visa holders wishing to remain in the UK are required to apply to renew their visa before it expires. At this point the Home Office will look into the investor’s UK-based financial assets and activity since the initial visa was granted, to ensure continued compliance with the visa conditions and immigration rules.

Challenges with extending your investor visa

Investor visa extension applications are ordinarily submitted via fast track and processed quickly. But there are a number of possible grounds for a delayed - or refused - decision which investors come up against when making their application.

If crucial documents are missing and/or the application was not within the published guidelines, there will be a delay. Extensive travelling can cause issues with eligibility, unless these qualify as exceptions for being mainly work-related.

Or, if the application was made from within the UK ie ‘in-country’, and the investor chooses to leave the UK before a decision was made, it’s unlikely the application would be processed.

One of the main reasons however for the notoriously high Tier 1 refusal rates is where investors fail to demonstrate through their application continued compliance with the financial requirements of the visa.

In response to the speculation about Roman Abramovich’s delayed investor visa renewal earlier this year, Security Minister Ben Wallace confirmed a government mandate to scrutinise more closely Tier 1 investors (and stopping short of indicating there was any specific targeting of Russian investors in retaliation to the Salisbury poisoining incident): “As the Prime Minister and former Home Secretary made clear, we are taking another look at how the [Tier 1] route operates and are undertaking further checks on investors who came to the UK through this route before the [2014/15] reforms were introduced.”

Applicants are labouring under enhanced scrutiny of source of investment funds, including those which had previously been cleared for Tier 1 purposes – something Tier 1 investor applicants and their professional advisers need to take specific consideration of when making their application.

The Home Office is clearly enforcing the enhanced requirement to dig deeper than ever into applicants’ financial activities including source of funds predating the latest rule changes.

With so much at stake, applicants should air on the side of caution when making an initial Tier 1 application and also when renewing; ensuring with the support and guidance of professional advisers that all required documentation is up to date and conforms to Home Office standards, and by preparing well for interview. The likelihood is the UK Tier 1 route is only going to get tougher.