There has recently been some media coverage on the case of Madiyar Ablyazov, the Kazakh millionaire who acquired British nationality via the Tier 1 Investor Route. This case was in regards to a young man who applied for the Tier 1 Investor visa in 2008, and to cut a long story short, the funds that were invested in order to receive the visa, were acquired by use of fraud, of which his father was guilty of.

The criticism in the media is that this visa which leads to settlement and subsequently British Nationality, was acquired at a price, and effectively the British government is selling nationality to millionaires on basis that they are wealthy. Further the criticism talks about how the nationality was acquired not only through extraordinary amounts of money, but that this money was unlawfully in the applicant’s possession. The media coverage is essentially trying to stir up the British public’s outrage.

However, it is not as easy as it appears to acquire British Nationality, despite a fraudulent case falling through the cracks.

Tier 1 Investor Visa criteria:

The Immigration Rules state that to be eligible for a Tier 1 Investor Visa you must have £2,000,000 to invest in the UK. This money must be available to the applicant in full, under his control and disposable in the UK. The applicant must have also opened a UK bank account.

Whilst it is possible for the money to be acquired illegally, it is the bank’s responsibility to investigate the source of the money being deposited into an account, as they are a financial institution which should in theory be diligent in their checks. Whilst the Home Office should be making checks on applications made to them, they need to have the freedom to decide a case based on its’ merits, rather than conduct financial checks.

Aside from this, the argument that citizenship is “purchased” with a million pounds, is also not quite right. We will deal with the requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain and citizenship later on, but the idea that money buys you nationality is a bit of an exaggeration. The £2 million needs to be invested in the UK by way of UK Government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies, within 3 months of entering the UK. If the money is invested for example in a UK company, this creates profits for the company which would in turn boost productivity, generate jobs and profits which would in turn provide money to the government in the form of Income Tax, Corporation Tax. In essence, Investor visas provide a steroid boost to the UK economy. The individual is also permitted to work and reside in the UK. This boost the UK economy as it will generate Income Tax, but more importantly, wealthy individuals are likely purchase luxury goods in the UK, which boosts production and profits for UK businesses.

The argument is that once the individual has acquired Indefinite Leave to Remain, they can sell their shares, but the shares will still be sold on at a high price and through-out the timeline of the visa grant will have provided income to UK companies.

Criteria for Indefinite Leave to Remain and British Citizenship:

Let’s now look at the criteria for acquiring Indefinite Leave to remain in the first place, to dispel the myth that millionaires are buying British passports for £2 million.

In order to be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain you must first have been living in the UK continuously, for 2, 3 or 5 years (depending on the level of investment). This would also involve having fewer the 180 days absences in each calendar month, so you will need to live in the UK for at least 6 months of the year. You would also need to pass the Life in UK Test and show adequate knowledge of the English language. The Life in UK Test is a test that is supposed to prove integration to the UK society and the English language test is also to prove that you can at least converse with native English speakers. This type of application is designed to evidence commitment to living in the UK.

British nationality applications have stricter residence requirements. You must show that you have spent fewer than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months, have lived in the UK for at least the 5 years before the date of your application and have spent no more than 450 days outside the UK during those 5 years.


Whilst it is possible to obtain a Tier 1 Investor visa by use of deception, the risk of deception is present in any type of visa application, including spouse visas, Tier 2 employment visas, and even as a EEA Family Member. By the time that they are applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain, they would have already had a chance to prove that they have invested their £2 million in qualifying UK companies / government bonds. They would also have to show a commitment to live in the UK, full time, to speak English and integrate into British society. When we are talking about millionaires buying passports, we should also be mindful that these individuals are creating jobs in the UK and generating tax revenue for our public services.

Sassa Karakatsianis

Immigration Law Specialist of Astons

July 27, 2017

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