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30 January 2023

Government confirms permanent closure of investor visa scheme

On 12 January, the Home Secretary Suella Braverman provided the government’s final response to a review of applicants who had entered the UK under the Tier 1 (Investor) route. The former Home Secretary at the time, Amber Rudd, initiated the review five years ago over concerns of abuse of the route.

The Tier 1 (Investor) route had allowed individuals investing in the UK to enter, and eventually settle in the UK. Priti Patel closed the investor route to all new applicants in February 2022.

The review considered 6,312 Tier 1 (Investor) migrants in a bid to investigate potential links to criminality or other risk factors. As part of the review, the Home Office also considered what wider risks the route presented and the overall economic benefit it had.

The results of the review confirmed that a “small minority” of individuals connected to the Tier 1 (Investor) visa route were at high risk of having obtained wealth through corruption or other illicit financial activity. In the final response, the Home Secretary revealed that UK law enforcement had access to the data from the review and were taking appropriate action under their remit. In the response, the Home Office noted that they had sanctioned ten oligarchs who had previously used this route into the UK. These sanctions were in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Home Secretary concluded that through the review and ongoing monitoring of the Tier 1 (Investor) route they found that there are “inherent difficulties in an investment-based immigration route based on passive wealth“. The difficulties she refers to are alleged security concerns and the economic value, or lack thereof, of the route.

One of the Home Secretary’s concerns was the risk of the immigration route not being equipped to evaluate the sources of wealth of the applicants. Rather than immigration caseworkers, it would require specialist expertise in detecting financial criminality to evaluate applications as cases of financial crime are complex. Illicit funds can be linked to historical corruption or financial crime and may only be based on suspicion or allegation. Further, Tier 1 (Investor) applicants may be politically connected or tied to the ruling class of their country of origin, allowing them to navigate allegations or suspicions.

In order to prevent the UK’s immigration system from abuse the government has confirmed that no migration route should be available based solely on the applicant’s personal wealth. Thereby confirming the permanent closure of the Tier 1 (Investor) route.

The economic downturn the UK is facing presents the government with an economic incentive to introduce an attractive investment based immigration category. We expect that the new route will require having and evidencing an active history of investing in innovative businesses and specific requirements for active investment into the UK beyond what was in place previously.

The government had originally said it would open a new route by the end of 2022, but has now indicated it will be Spring 2023. In order to remain competitive this should be introduced sooner rather than later as the UK is the only country in the top 10 global passport ranking with no investment immigration route.

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Navka Raja
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