UK investor visas are perhaps the quickest and least restricted ways for those from outside Europe to gain residency in the UK and bypass many of the common visa requirements.
There are many reasons why investors might want to obtain residency in another country, which may eventually lead to them obtaining citizenship. Politically and legally stable jurisdictions, particularly ones where there is significant financial services expertise, are very attractive to affluent individuals. As well as providing a safe haven for your assets, residency in another country may well open business and educational opportunities that make investing in a second citizenship an attractive option for you (and perhaps also your family).
(Details correct at November 2014)
The UK offers visas in a tiered system. “High-value” migrants can apply for a tier 1 visa, skilled migrants apply for tier 2 visas, and so on to tier 5 visas for temporary workers. Tier 1 is further divided into five categories: Entrepreneur, Investor, Exceptional Talent, Graduate, Entrepreneur and General. Tier 1 General visas are for migrants with an annual income above £150,000, who speak English fluently and who fulfil certain other working and income requirements. Tier 1 Investor visas are much more flexible option for individuals with significant investable wealth.
The Tier 1 Investor visa allows you to come to the UK for a maximum of 3 years and 4 months, after which you may apply for a two-year extension.
Important changes to the Tier 1 Investor visa regime come into force on 6 November 2014. Previously, people could apply if they had least £1m of personally-owned and controlled wealth available to invest in the UK, or if they had net assets above £2m and at least £1m to invest in the UK (which could be a loan). Under the new rules, applicants will now have to put £2m into eligible investments, which broadly means UK government bonds, and either shares or debt in UK-registered, actively-trading companies (you cannot invest in property investment, development or management companies).
The second key change is that the £2m cannot represent borrowed funds, removing the so-called “loan route” option. Most significantly, however, the full £2m now has to be placed into a portfolio of specified investments, whereas previously Investor visa applicants only had to put 75% of their investment into the portfolio. Before they could retain the remaining 25% balance in the UK, but in other assets, and – as might be expected – many chose to deploy these funds on helping to buy a property.
While the threshold for investment has been raised and the loan route option removed, investors are now freed of the “topping up” requirement – meaning that they won’t have to plough more money in if their portfolio drops below £2m in value. Instead, they will only have to make new investments if they sell an asset from the portfolio, rather than worrying too much about falling below a threshold. This could allow investors to take on more investment risk and seek higher returns by adding a greater component of UK corporate bonds to their holdings, for example.
Several UK wealth managers offer a specialised service to migrants on Investor visas and some institutions will even be able to assist in the visa application process itself. If you are interested in finding a UK wealth manager to allocate funds for an Investor visa, you can indicate this when you complete our short questionnaire and start the process of finding your best-matched wealth managers.
There are a number of strictures on obtaining a Tier 1 UK investor visa.
You must spend at least half of your time in the UK, but unlike with General visas there are no language requirements. Nor are you required to work in the UK while in residence, although can if you wish, with a few restrictions.
You are prohibited from working as a sportsperson or coach professionally on an investor visa. Additionally, you can only work as doctor or nurse if you hold a medical or nursing degree from a recognised UK institution; if you worked in the medical profession in a training capacity the last time you were in the UK; or if you have had a visa before where neither of those conditions were part of the terms.
You can apply for a Tier 1 Investor visa up to three months before you wish to come to the UK and your application should be decided upon within three weeks.
Applying for a Tier 1 UK investor visa costs £874 (£819 if you are a citizen of Turkey or Macedonia). Extending your visa will cost £1,093 by post or £1,493 through the premium in-person service (£1,038 and £1,438 respectively for citizens of Turkey or Macedonia).
Holding an Investor visa also allows you to apply for visas for family members. The application fees for any dependants are as for a standard adult. You can also apply to switch to an Investor visa from other visa types, with similar fees applying as for extensions.
You can apply for permanent settlement in the UK more quickly depending on your level of investment. If you are willing to invest £10m you can apply to settle in the UK after two years; if you invest £5m you can settle after three years. Clearly, with such significant sums being invested it will be even more essential that you have a high-quality wealth manager in the UK to manage your investments.