Reform UK's Visa Programme For HNWIs To Boost Economy, Says Law Firm

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, London, 24 January 2014


A UK visa system for HNW investors should be reformed, and in some ways relaxed, to boost the economic benefits, a law firm says ahead of potential government changes.

The UK’s visa regime for high net worth investors should be made easier to obtain and such a move will boost the country’s economy amid a global fight for capital, according to the findings of a survey of HNW individuals and wealth managers.

Kingsley Napley, an international law firm working in areas such as immigration, says its recent survey shows support to loosen Tier 1 visa requirements as operated by the UK authorities. The firm is gathering evidence ahead of a report due to be considered by the UK government in February this year about the economic benefits – or costs – to the UK of its visa regime for HNW individuals. The scheme was introduced in the mid-1990s and redesigned in 2010 by the coalition government.

Countries such as the UK, Spain, Portugal and Malta, among others, have rolled out visa regimes in recent years that offer citizenship/residence in return for investments of varying sizes. (Usually, the greater the size of the investment, the faster a person gets residency.) These moves have been controversial, as in the case of Malta’s recent efforts to offer citizenship to wealthy persons. (For more on that case, see here.) In the UK, a cluster of law firms and specialist wealth managers, such as London & Capital and InvestUK, have focused efforts on the area. InvestUK has also called on reforms to make the system more attractive (see here.) Not all firms operating in this space have found it easy; HSBC shuttered its service for such clients after finding it was not getting sufficient return business from this work.

One finding of the survey, Kingsley Napley said, is that changing the type of permissible investments for the purpose of getting a visa would be a positive step, it said in a statement.

A proposed introduction of an English language test for applications is unlikely to be a problem, the survey found, but it did find that requiring dependents of these investors to have to wait five years for a permanent visa is a problem and can deter applicants from making significant investments here under the scheme.

The law firm said there were 530 Tier 1 Investors entering the UK in the year 2012 – 2013, injecting over £530 million ($880.7 million) to the UK economy.

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