Is the UK golden visa scheme set for Brexit boost?

The UK’s Tier 1 Investor Visa has come under a lot of scrutiny over the last few years but it may become one of the most attractive schemes in the world.

Covid-19 may have been an unpleasant distraction from Brexit but it has only been a distraction.

It has not stalled or delayed the end of the implementation period of 31 December 2020, which will see the dawn of a new immigration system.

There are many questions around this system but one on a few people’s lips is what impact will Brexit have on the UK’s golden visa programme?

Skip straight to the UK

Antonia Torr, partner specialising in immigration at Howard Kennedy, told International Adviser: “A significant number of high net worth individuals would utilise an EU investor programme, typically Malta or Cyprus, in order to gain EU citizenship and then use that EU citizenship to enter the UK as an EU citizen.

“After 31 December 2020, this will no longer be an option and so it is anticipated that a number of HNW individuals will look at dual EU/British citizenship or will skip straight to the UK.

“The UK still remains attractive for lifestyle, education and legal reasons.”

The programme currently requires a minimum investment of £2m ($2.53m, €2.23m) into an active UK trading company. The company must be registered in the UK and must have at least two British employees, who are not the directors.

Battered economy

Recently, the EU commission criticised Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta for their citizenship by investment schemes and said they should phase out their programmes.

This followed a March 2019 recommendation from the European Parliament which urged EU countries to end any golden visas or passport schemes.

The UK’s Tier 1 Investor Visa, which was created in 2008 to tackle the financial crisis, has also come under criticism for inadequate ‘dirty money’ checks.

This led to the suspension of the Tier 1 Investor programme for 24 hours in December 2018.

But Torr added: “With covid-19 hitting the economy and then the end of the implementation period just six months away, could we see a silent and delicate reversal of some of those checks in order to encourage more foreign investment to kick start a battered economy?”

Uphold our values

The coronavirus bill is ever-increasing and the UK government has not yet pinned down how its billion-pound pledges are going to be funded, so the scheme could be a great idea to help.

It is estimated that £9bn has been invested into the UK via private individuals since the programme’s inception in 2008.

However, some in the legal sector do not believe we should sacrifice compliance to secure much-needed money.

Ben Xu, immigration associate at law firm Irwin Mitchell, told International Adviser: “Boosting economic recovery in the UK post-pandemic by attracting investors is hugely important but the rigour of immigration system should not be compromised by reducing the due diligence carried out on prospective visa holders.

“A decision to reduce or remove certain compliance checks could attract applicants for investor visas whose wealth is from sources that are not legitimate and wish to use the UK as a safe harbour.

“As a country, we must uphold our values and focus on our strengths such as our renowned legal and financial sectors and exceptional education system to attract genuine investors, investments and talent.

“This will be even more vital when the UK positions itself and becomes a close ally/partner of the EU after the transition period.”

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