Lobbying for changes to the Tier 1 Investor Route, following “Brexit”

In 2017, the number of Tier 1 Investor visa applications the Home Office received had doubled compared to the previous year.

It appears that despite the uncertainty created by Brexit, the UK is not only continuing to attract overseas investors but, there has in fact been a significant rise in Tier 1 (Investor) visa applications.

But how has Brexit increased demand for Tier 1 Investor visas? The reason for this is that high net-worth individuals, who have been investing in Malta and Cyprus may have been doing so, to obtain EU passports and therefore gain access to the UK. If investing in Malta and Cyprus would not grant the applicant access to the UK, they would be attracted to invest directly into the UK to obtain a Tier 1 Investor visa. Without EU free movement, the UK needs to think about attracting inward investment from outside the EU. This is a good opportunity to lobby the Home Office for changes to the Tier 1 Investor route.

The Tier 1 Investor category is an attractive visa route; however it has a few short comings, including the following:

Doubling of minimum investment: The number of Tier 1 (Investor) visas granted by the UK fell from nearly 3000 in 2014, to 217 in the first half of 2016. The decline can be attributed to the doubling of the minimum level of investment from £1million to £2million in November 2014.

Residence requirement: To qualify for settlement, investors should reside in the UK for at least six months in every 12-month period. To qualify for citizenship, the investor should not spend more than 450 days outside of the UK over a five-year period. International investors usually need to travel frequently for business. However, the residence requirement is just not feasible for people who rely on being able to travel frequently to run their businesses.

Length of time required for dependents to qualify for settlement: The category offers an accelerated settlement route for those who invest more, but their dependents are still required to wait at least five years to acquire settlement, even if the main applicant need only complete 2 or 3 years to obtain settlement. This does not consider that families naturally want to apply for settlement and citizenship as a family unit, rather than submitting multiple applications over the period of 6 years.

There are a few ideas of how the Home Office can make the Tier 1 Investor route more attractive, to increase investment coming to the UK from overseas investors.

Lower investment for students: The Home Office could introduce a lower investment threshold for recent UK graduates or young people, to encourage those that studied in the UK to remain and contribute to the economy.

Reduce the residency requirement: As per above, there are other investor routes that are more attractive, within the EU, that have a shorter residency requirement. To obtain Maltese citizenship as an investor, the residence requirement is described as “an intention to reside in Malta for any fiscal year, usually evidenced by a stay of a minimum of 183 days or by the purchase/rental of property together with a visit to Malta.”  If an applicant does not reside in Malta, all they must show is they bought a property and visited Malta once. In Cyprus, an applicant can obtain citizenship within 3 months, with no residence requirement. The Home Office in this case, to compete with these alternative citizenship routes, could reduce the residence requirement to 3 months per year.

Super Investor: The Home Office could introduce a £20M investor route, which would enable very wealthy applicant to obtain citizenship more quickly. This would compete with other jurisdictions such as Cyprus, that offer citizenship in 3 months, and Malta that grants citizenship within 12 months.

Allow dependants to qualify for ILR at the same time as the main applicant: The other jurisdictions in the EU allow dependants to apply at the same time as the main applicant for citizenship, within very short time frames. This would encourage Investors to apply to come to the UK. Malta even allows parents of investors to apply for an additional fee of 5,000 EUR.

Sassa Karakatsianis, Immigration Specialist

September 18, 2017

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