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UK Scraps Tier-I ‘Golden’ Visa Scheme For Foreign Investors

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The UK Home Ministry has confirmed the scrapping of Visa scheme for wealthy foreign investors where the latter were given fast-track residency if they were willing to invest a minimum of £2 million in the UK. British Home Secretary Priti Patel announced the ending of Tier 1 investor visas as the beginning a “renewed crackdown on illicit finance and fraud”.

The UK Investment Visa is a Tier 1 visa, part of the UK Points Based System, offered to wealthy individuals willing to invest a minimum of £2 million in the UK. The scheme was first introduced in 2008 to encourage wealthy investors outside of EU to invest in UK. Often termed as “Golden Visa”, such visa holders could apply for permanent residency in the UK, at a speed depending on how much they invested. A £2m investment allowed an application within five years, shortened to three years with £5m or two years if £10m was invested. In simple terms, the higher the amount of money invested, the quicker the individual could apply for settlement and eventually British citizenship.

Priti Patel
Priti Patel

 

The UK government says that the visa scheme has “failed to deliver for the UK people and gave opportunities for corrupt elites to access the UK”. The British Home Secretary Priti Patel said, “I have zero tolerance for abuse of our immigration system. Under my new plan for Immigration, I want to ensure the British people have confidence in the system, including stopping corrupt elites who threaten our national security and push dirty money around our cities.” She added, “Closing this route is just the start of our renewed crackdown on fraud and illicit finance. We will be publishing a fraud action plan, while the forthcoming Economic Crime Bill will crackdown on people abusing our financial institutions and better protect the taxpayer.”

The Russia Connection

The scrapping of such visa comes at a time when the U.K. government has been facing pressure over illicit finance linked to Russia. Reports say that by the end of March 2020, the UK government had issued 2,581 visas to Russian citizens since the Tier 1 Investor visa scheme was introduced in 2008. As part of a report that warned about Russian influence in the UK in 2020, the U.K. parliament’s intelligence and security committee had called for a “more robust” approach to issuing Tier 1 visas.

The UK Home Office has also said that it shall soon publish a report on the scheme, including the findings of an investigation into 700 Russian millionaires who were granted one of these visas between 2008 and 2015. The UK Home Secretary also spoke about the introduction of a long-delayed Economic Crime Bill to boost transparency around foreign ownership of real estate to counter fraud and illicit finance.

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