Nick Rollason on the surprise proposal in parliament this week that could shut migratory HNWs out in the cold
An amendment to the 2015 Immigration Bill tabled this week has come as a surprise to immigration lawyers in the City like myself. Baroness Hamwee and Lord Paddick (both Liberal Democrats) are proposing the abolition of the Tier 1 Investor visa from 1 January 2017 – the visa granted if you invest more than £2 million in the UK.
It is not clear what has prompted this proposal and the timing. It may be that there are continuing doubts around the economic benefit of the route to the UK and speculative concerns about whether the investor visa is being used by criminals.
However, historical concerns about how the route could be used by those whose wealth was dubious have largely been addressed by a 2015 immigration rule change, which now requires extensive due diligence to be undertaken on the source and origin of funds by UK banks (having a UK investment account is a precondition).
2015 saw a tiny number of investors applying to come to the UK – down from around 1800 in 2014, to around 200 last year. The popularity of the Tier 1 Investor route has been badly affected by the increase in the minimum investment from £1 million to £2 million in November 2014 – not to mention geopolitical and economic factors affecting the two main source countries for these visas, China and Russia.
However, rather than closing this route shouldn’t we be enhancing it? There are clearly now enough safeguards in place to ensure the integrity of the Tier 1 route.
Contrary to popular belief, the Investor route is not a ‘passports for sale’ visa – it requires an extended period of residence with significant presence before someone can obtain permanent residence in the UK and only a year later would they become eligible for British Citizenship, subject to security and character checks. Those who come to the UK this way bring funds, typically provide employment and are therefore useful citizens for society as a whole.
What the government should be doing is thinking about how to attract a greater number of Tier 1 investors who can put their investments to work in the UK economy and into wider society. If this latest proposal goes through, it will be yet another example of how the pressure to reduce immigration is being misrouted through political folly.
Nick Rollason is head of immigration law at Kingsley Napley LLP