The Tier 1 (Investor) immigration route will be suspended from midnight tonight (6/7 December) which means no applications will be accepted after today.
Currently, a Tier 1 (Investor) visa is granted to wealthy candidates who are willing to make a substantial financial investment of £2 million, £5 million or £10 million in Government bonds or British businesses in return for permission to apply for permanent residence in five, three or two years respectively.
This so-called ‘gold-plated’ visa scheme which allows foreign investors a fast-track to settlement in the UK is planned to be suspended in order to tackle money laundering as part of serious organised crime conducted by those granted this visa. The Immigration Minister has been reported stating that the planned measures aim to make sure that only those genuine investors who play by rules and intend to support the UK business can benefit from the UK immigration system.
While a statement of changes to the Immigration Rules is planned to be laid before Parliament later today, as assumed to make the changes necessary to suspend the Tier 1 (Investor) route, the route itself will be re-introduced for applications in 2019 at unspecified date. Changes are planned to be serious, including removing government bonds from the list of acceptable investments and leaving only active and trading UK companies as option for investment while also obliging applicants to provide comprehensive audit trails evidencing the money source.
The announcement has been received as a shock by some practitioners who are concerned about the timing of introduction of these measures which collides with the timing of debating of the whole new future of the UK immigration system amid Brexit which may have a negative effect on already nervous investors coming from abroad.
These planned changes to investor visa scheme are not the first aimed to tackle non-genuine migrants investing in the UK through the Tier 1 (Investor) immigration route, as previously in November 2014 and April 2015 there had been reforms under which applications can be refused if there are reasonable doubts about the source of the investment funds or that they have been acquired through unlawful conduct. Those reforms resulted in planned plummeting of the number of Tier 1 (Investor) visas in their immediate aftermath.