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Government review of investor visa scheme confirms permanent closure of route

Almost five years after Amber Rudd committed to a review of individuals who had entered the UK under the Tier 1 (Investor) route, today, Suella Braverman provided the government’s final response.

The review looked at individuals who had entered the UK between 30 June 2008 and the introduction of reforms to the route in April 2015. The reforms in 2015 included a requirement to open a regulated UK bank account. Despite the changes, after the invasion of Ukraine, the investor was route closed to all new applicants in February 2022.

As part of the review, the Home Office considered 6,312 Tier 1 (Investor) migrants and adult dependents with a view to ascertaining whether they had potential links to criminality or other risk factors. A small number of individuals were “potentially at high risk of having obtained wealth through corruption or other illicit financial activity, and/or being engaged in serious and organised crime”. Law enforcement are taking appropriate action where necessary. Immigration action is also being considered, where appropriate. As an example, Braverman says, the Home Office has already sanctioned ten oligarchs who had previously used this route as part of the UK’s response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Regardless of the additional action being taken, Braverman says that the Home Office is “robust” in appropriately refusing leave:

“During the operation of the Tier 1 (Investor) visa programme the route has had a refusal rate for main applicants and their dependents of 7.9% for Entry Clearance applications, 4% for Leave to Remain applications, for main applicants seeking Indefinite Leave to remain (settlement) the refusal rate is 2.2%.”

The review also weighed up the wider risk factors of the route as it was designed at the time, with its overall economic benefit. When looking at the route both before and after the 2015 reform, there was no evidence of a systematic failure of financial institutions carrying out due diligence checks. A number of institutions with weaker checks were sought out by individuals wanting to apply for the visa and since then, a number of fines have been issued by the Financial Conduct Authority.

The Home Office found that “there are inherent difficulties in an investment-based immigration route based on passive wealth, both in terms of security and economic value.” The risks inherent with this visa category required specialist caseworkers, expertise in detecting financial criminality. The UK’s immigration system was not equipped with this.

Any future route introduced to facilitate investment should not offer entry to the UK solely on the basis of the applicant’s personal wealth. Alternative options continue to be considered, including placing more emphasis on the applicants track record as an investor in innovative business and their future engagement in innovative activities in the UK. For now, Braverman says that she is “determined this government will ensure such mistakes are not repeated”.

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