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UK's Golden Visas Draw Application Surge

Robbie Lawther

18 July 2018

The number of millionaires and billionaires applying to move to the UK as part of the Tier 1 investor visa programme rose by 46 per cent last year, according to law firm . The data suggests that a previous slowdown in demand has reversed.

In the 12 months to 30 March, 405 high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals applied to come to the UK on a Tier 1 investor visa, compared with 278 in the previous twelve months.

Applicants for the visa, which allows people to stay in the country for three years, must have at least £2 million ($2.66 million) to invest in the UK. Investor visas are seen as a fast-track process for wealthy foreign nationals to acquire UK citizenship.

Of the total applications, 123 came from China, up from 98 the year before, with 52 coming from Russia, up from 34, and 24 from Turkey, compared with 13 in the preceding 12 months.

Recent political developments in Saudi Arabia, China and Turkey, as well as Russia’s difficult relations with the West, have unnerved some wealthy individuals from those countries, encouraging them to apply for residency in the UK. This publication reported in March, that despite Russians facing more scrutiny in the UK to hunt down tax miscreants, they should not, however, fear a blanket clampdown on them in light of the present difficult diplomatic environment.

However, one effect that Britain’s exit from the EU has had on the climate for super rich immigrants is increased delays in renewing or extending their visas. Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich was unable to enter Britain in May because he had problems renewing his Tier 1 visa. After the oligarch’s situation was revealed, the government confirmed it was re-examining the visas.

Increasingly, many HNW individuals may be considering a move to the UK rather than the US with their similar EB-5 investor programme coming under growing political pressure. Despite an extension of the programme until 30 September, Donald Trump’s administration has urged the US Congress to eliminate or reform the programme in the long-term.

“Despite Brexit uncertainty, the UK is attractive to many HNWs as a place to live and invest in,” said James Badcock, partner at Collyer Bristow. “For many overseas investors the UK offers an international platform from which to grow their investments or businesses on an international stage. In addition to the financial and investment opportunities, the strong cultural appeal of the UK and London as well as its private education system attracts many overseas high net worths. With political uncertainty surrounding investor visas in the US, a growing number of HNWs are looking to move to and invest in the UK. However, some high net worths may have concerns that the Government could tighten visa rules after the formal Brexit date in March 2019 and may be looking to enter before then.”

This publication has contacted the UK Home Office, and it said that it could not vouch for the data collected by the law firm, but did not dismiss the stats Bristow Collyer provided. It did state that Tier 1 visas granted last year had risen 11 per cent to 5,198.

A few years ago, the minimum amount required was hiked to £2 million from £1 million, and coupled with clampdowns on certain tax breaks for wealthy foreign owners of property and changes to the non-dom regime, there were fewer applications for these visas. The system is one of dozens operated by jurisdictions seeking inflows of wealth, such as in Spain, Portugal, Malta, Canada and the US. Recent years have seen attempts to promote best practice in the sector, such as the creation of the , a Geneva-based group. The IMC has waded into controversy, chiding the government of Hungary for a visa system that it said was ripe for misuse and corruption.