After its introduction in 2008, the Tier 1 Investor Visa which is often referred to as the UK Golden Visa or the “gold-plated” visa, is being suspended as of midnight on Friday 7thDecember 2018.
The visa scheme was set in place to encourage affluent people from outside of the EU to invest in the UK. This was a fast-track solution being offered to foreign investors who were interested in settling in the UK.
UK Ministers decision to impose this drastic halt on the visa scheme is part of a “crackdown on financial crime” i.e. money laundering.
The programme gave investors who bought the visa for £2 million, indefinite leave to remain after five years in the UK However, concerns arose where the scheme had traces of being used as a means of money laundering.
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes announced that “the suspension would come into effect at midnight on Friday” as “we will not tolerate people who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the system”. She went on to say that, “that is why I am bringing forward these new measures which will make sure that only genuine investors, who intend to support UK businesses, can benefit from our immigration system.”
The “gold-plated” visa suspension will end after an audit process is introduced, ministers say.
Word has it that as of next year, independent, regulated auditors will assess applicants’ financial and business interests as well as checking that they have had control of these funds for a minimum of at least two years, the Home Office said – compared to what the scheme previously required, which was that applicants had to have a UK bank account and were of “good character”.
In 2017, over 1,000 Tier 1 visas were issued with the highest investors coming from China and Russia. Under the programme, successful candidates were eligible to have visas that lasted three years and four months, with two-year extensions available.
By 2011, the government anticipated that the Tier 1 visa would attract the “brightest and best” due to allowing investors the option to bring forward the date at which they could apply for settled status. This would amount to them spending, on average, £10 million in the UK to cut the wait by two years.
The Migration Advisory Committee, however, said in 2014 that “the scheme brought little economic benefit for British citizens because most applicants were buying gilts to qualify” – meaning that they were effectively loaning the government money, rather than investing in the UK.
So, what will be the future for the “gold-plated” UK visa?
The Home Office revealed that there will be a planned provision for ‘pooled investments – supported by the government,’ to support projects with a “clear economic benefit to the UK” such as backing up small and medium-sized businesses.