The UK Tier 1 Investor visa has come under fire from the head of the independent Migration Advisory Committee appointed by the government for effectively using taxpayers’ money to subsidize the stay of wealthy investors in the country.
The UK Tier 1 Investor visa program is very popular among Chinese investors, whose 357 visas accounted for half the total visas granted between October 2013 and September 2014, and Russians, whose number of applications surged by 69% over the same period.
Immigration experts have noted a significant increase in interest in investment immigration programs in Europe over the past few years. Such schemes fetch FDI worth around $7 billion each year with demand growing at around 20% per year.
Critics highlight the risk of such programs being used by criminals and other undesirables to gain fast-track entry into developed nations. Instances of corruption have been unearthed in various programs including Portugal’s Golden Visa. Like the UK, a significant proportion of permanent residence permits were issued to Chinese investors.
To minimize instances of fraud and misuse of the UK Tier 1 Investor visa program, applicants are no longer permitted to use loaned funds to finance the minimum investment. Further, all applicants are now required to comply with banks’ KYC norms and open a bank account even before submitting the application.
While these measures may prove effective in minimizing risk of fraud, criticism that the UK economy gains very little by being so generous to investors seeking British citizenship remain unanswered.
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