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The United Kingdom is actively seeking foreign investors to enter and remain on its shores through generous provisions in its immigration laws.  It provides a fast track system for settlement of only two years, reduced from the standard five years, for individuals who enter as an investor and put significant amounts of money into the UK’s economy.  Further relaxations in the normally stringent immigration requirements include permission for investors to remain outside the UK for up to 180 days each year before losing their ability to apply for citizenship.

I.  Introduction

The United Kingdom has a series of provisions to encourage “high-value migrants” to enter and work in the country.  High-value migrants are in the Tier 1 category of the UK’s points-based system and include exceptionally talented and highly skilled workers, investors, and entrepreneurs.[1]  The Tier 1 investor category is designed to attract individuals with a high net worth to come to and invest in the UK, with fast-track possibilities for settlement for those who invest significant amounts of money.

A.  Requirements to Obtain a Tier 1 Investor Visa

To obtain a visa to enter the UK as a Tier 1 investor the applicant must show that he or she

  • holds at least £1 million (approximately US$1.6 million) in a regulated financial institution (i.e., a bank or building society) and these funds are under his/her control and disposable in the UK; or
  • has a net personal wealth of at least £2 million (approximately US$3.2 million) and money borrowed from a financial institution regulated by the UK Financial Services Authority of at least £1 million.[2] 

Investment funds held offshore do not count towards the figures required, and individuals may not take loans out using their investments as security.[3] 

B.  Requirements for Settlement for Tier 1 Investors

There are varying levels of requirements for Tier 1 (Investor) visa holders in the UK to apply for permission to settle permanently, depending on the amount of UK-based funds or total assets they have.[4]

To encourage the investment of larger sums of money in the UK, the requirements for continuous residence for citizenship have been relaxed for those who invest more in the country.  The standard residency period before a person qualifies for UK citizenship is five years for individuals, who must be present in the country lawfully.  For individuals in the UK as a Tier 1 investor, however, the residency period may be as low as two years, depending upon the amount they have invested:

  • If a person has lived in the UK for two years he or she must have at least £10 million (approximately US$16 million) under his or her control in the UK, or personal assets with a value of at least £20 million (approximately US$32 million)and at least £10 million under his or her control and disposable in the UK that has been loaned by a UK-regulated financial institution. 
  • The amounts are reduced to £5 million (approximately US$ 8 million)in UK-based funds, or £10 million in assets and £5 million in UK loans, if a person has lived in the UK for three years.
  • The lowest minimum requirements are for £1 million in UK-based funds, or £2 million in assets and £1 million in UK loans, if a person has lived in the UK for five years.[5]  

C.  2011 Modifications to the Requirements

In 2011 the provisions of the investor visas were adjusted to give applicants “red carpet treatment.”[6]  The aim of the change of rules was to “encourage the brightest and the best to locate to the UK.”[7]  The Immigration Minister made a strong statement that the rules were to increase the number of investors entering the country to help aid the recovery of the British economy:

Today I have sent out a clear message – the UK remains open for business and we want those who have the most to offer to come and settle here.

Entrepreneurs and investors can play a major part in our economic recovery and I want to do everything I can to ensure that Britain remains an attractive destination for them.[8]

The major changes included a fast track for settlement, discussed above, as well as a relaxation of the rules concerning the amount of time investors may spend outside the country from ninety to 180 days per year.  This relaxation was introduced as a result of complaints that prior rules reduced the mobility of investors that needed to travel and remain mobile to continue to be successful in their work.[9]

D.  Numbers of Entrants as Tier 1 Investors

The numbers of people entering the UK under the Tier 1 investor category have been steadily increasing since its introduction in 2007.  The following table is compiled from information provided by immigration statistics that are prepared periodically by the UK Government:[10]

 

Main Applicant

Dependents

2008

43

95

2009

153

282

2010

211

373

2011

331

529

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Prepared by Clare Feikert-Ahalt
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
June 2013
 


[1] Tier 1 (Investor), UK Border Agency, http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/working/ tier1/investor/ (last visited June 4, 2013).

[2] Tier 1 (Investor): Points for Initial Applications, UK Border Agency, http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/working/tier1/investor/eligibility/initial/ (last visited June 12, 2013). 

[3] Tier 1 Investor Guidance, Addendum, UK Border Agency, http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/ applicationforms/pbs/tier1investorguidance1.pdf (last visited June 12, 2013).

[4] Tier 1 (Investor): Settlement, UK Border Agency, http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/working/tier1/investor/settlement/ (last visited June 4, 2013).  

[5] Id.

[6] House of Commons Library Standard Note, April 2011 Changes to Tier 1 and Tier 2 of the Points-based System and Indefinite Leave, SN/HA/5922, Apr. 2011, http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN05922.pdf.

[7] Press Release, UK Trade And Investment, Entrepreneurs and Investors Get Red Carpet Treatment to Set Up in UK (Mar. 16, 2011), http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110704144231/ukti.gov.uk/pt_pt/uktihome/ home/item/ 127984.html?null.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.