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UKVI has suspended Tier 1 investor visas in a crackdown on financial crime, with effect from 7th December 2018.

It has taken the UK government more than 3 years since the publication of the Transparency International’s report, which criticized the apparent vulnerability of the UK’s Tier 1 Investor visa route, and a serious political clash with the Russian government, to finally decide to look into the claim that substantial amounts of corrupt wealth stolen from Russia and China are being laundered through the UK investor visa route.

Tier 1 Investor visa allows applicants to settle permanently in the UK on the basis that they invest at least £2 million or more in UK government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies. Depending on the amount the applicant invests, they can potentially acquire indefinite leave to remain in the UK in either 5 years (£2m), 3 years (£5m) or 2 years (£10m). However, it has long been argued that the scheme does not actually bring major economic benefit to the UK, as applicants were effectively loaning the money, rather than actually investing in the UK.

In light of the above, the Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, has just announced that the Tier 1 Investor route will be temporarily suspended from midnight on the 7th December 2018 until an audit process is introduced.

There has not yet been a formal notification from the Home Office to confirm the timeliness for the suspension or the exact measures that will be introduced, however, the following are the main changes that have so far been mentioned:

Applicants will now have to provide comprehensive audits of all their financial and business interests to be carried out by the UK regulated auditing firms.

Applicants will have to prove that they have had control of the investment for at least two years prior to making an application.

Certain investments, such as government bonds, will no longer be allowed, and investments will need to be made inactive and trading UK companies.

Pooled investments, which are supported by the Government, will need to back projects with a “clear economic benefit for the UK”.

In the year ending September 2018, more than 1000 applications were granted under this visa route and we strongly recommend that independent legal advice is thought in cases where an application under this route has recently been made or is being considered as one of the options.

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