As expected, 2020 saw a sharp fall in UK visas granted to foreigners. However, a closer look at the numbers, especially those related to the Tier-1 Investor visa, raises concerns about whether the UK’s golden visa is losing its sheen among foreign investors.
As per latest available data, there was a 42 percent fall in ‘high-value’ visas – the Tier 1 Investor and Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa – between June 2019 and June 2020.
COVID-19’s impact is evident but the numbers show that the fall in demand for the visa had begun well before the virus forced governments across the world to close borders.
Tier-1 Investor Visa Requirements
The Tier-1 Investor Visa requires a successful applicant to invest at least £2 million in qualifying UK investments for indefinite leave to remain the country after the living in the UK for five years. This period comes down to just two years for those investing £10 million or more.
Until recently, government bonds counted as qualifying investments, although current rules broadly focus on investments in share or loan capital of active and trading UK-registered companies.
The number of Tier-1 Investor visas granted every year rose from 2015 to 2019 before showing a sharp decline from the second half of 2019. This decline coincided with multiple rule changes that impacted investors negatively.
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For the Investor visa, qualifying investments changed, which included the major shift concerning the eligibility of government bonds.
The UK government suspended the Entrepreneur visa and replaced it with a Startup and Innovator visa, which can hardly be called a like-for-like replacement.
This was followed by an unexpected decision to suspend the Tier-1 Investor Visa, followed by a U-turn after 48 hours. If there’s one thing that investment immigrants hate, it is uncertainty.
The policy flip-flop resulted in a sharp fall in visa applications in the third and fourth quarter of 2019. This decline may have been the result of the inevitable fall in demand that accompanies every negative rule change.
But this seems unlikely because foreign investors often preferred the riskier but more profitable option of equity investments in UK companies over low-risk, low-returns government bonds.
With Brexit finally done and dusted, the UK passport no longer enjoys the EU advantage, which may be another reason for investment immigrants to explore alternate options.
Options to Revive Demand
The Investor visa offers applicants and eligible dependents the right to live, work, study, or settle in the country. The UK is a very popular immigration destination, which means the government is unlikely to resort to reducing minimum investments to boost demand.
One easy and effective option would be a formal policy statement affirming intent to continue with a stable and transparent investment immigration program. This would cause the disruptions of 2019 and 2020 to fade into the background and enthuse wealthy foreigners to return to the program.General Information: Contact us to receive more information about this article.
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