Home Office suspends investor visas scheme in crackdown on organised crime


LONDON: Bottom of Form

The Government has suspended a ‘gold-plated’ visa scheme which allows foreign investors a fast-track to settlement in the UK as part of a crackdown on money laundering, Evening Standard has reported.

Tier 1 investor visas, which were introduced in 2008 for those willing to invest millions of pounds into the country, will be suspended from midnight on Friday.

Investments could be made of £2million, £5million or £10million in Government bonds or British businesses in return for permission to apply for permanent residence in five, three or two years respectively.

But the Home Office said the scheme would be suspended amid ongoing efforts to tackle serious organised crime.

More than 1,000 of the visas were issued last year, with the highest numbers going to Chinese and Russian investors.

The scheme only previously required that applicants had a UK bank account and were of “good character”.

But under new rules, applicants will have to undergo audits of their financial and business interests to prove they have not laundered money.

These audits will have to be carried out by regulated UK auditing firms which have no involvement with any qualifying investments or the visa application. Applicants will also have to prove they have controlled their £2 million investment for two years.

On Wednesday, immigration minister Caroline Nokes said the UK hoped to block foreign investors from abusing the system by bringing in the new measures. She told the Times: “The UK will always be open to legitimate and genuine investors who are committed to helping our economy and businesses grow.

“However, I have been clear that we will not tolerate people who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the system.

“That is why I am bringing forward these new measures which will make sure only genuine investors, who intend to support UK businesses, can benefit from our immigration system.”

Other measures set to be introduced will increase benefits to UK companies by excluding investment in Government bonds and ensuring investments are made in active and trading businesses.

The changes to the scheme are part of wider reforms to the visa system. The Home Office is also replacing the Tier 1 Graduate and Entrepreneur visa routes with a Start-up visa route, announced in June, and the Innovator visa route.