UK suspends 'gold-plated' visas as part of crackdown on organized crime and money laundering
The issuance of investor visas will resume in the new year but under more stringent rules. This process for obtaining British citizenship was used mainly by citizens of China and Russia.
Oligarchs and the super-rich wishing to come to Britain are to face new curbs as the government suspends “gold-plated” investor visas from midnight. The move is part of a crackdown on organized crime and money laundering, The Times reports.
The “Tier-1” investor visas give people who are willing to bring millions of pounds to Britain a fast track to settlement in the country. Investments of £2 million, £5 million or £10 million can be made in gilts, or government bonds, or in British businesses, in return for permission to apply for permanent residence in five, three or two years respectively. Applicants can then apply for British citizenship, which some believe is the ultimate goal for wealthy overseas migrants.
Critics of the route say that it can be exploited as a tool to launder the proceeds of corruption and may already have led to substantial amounts of wealth stolen from Russia and China being laundered in Britain. “We will not tolerate people who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the system,” Caroline Nokes, the immigration minister, said.
Over the past 12 months (the period until September 2018), 361 people received an investor visa (115 documents were issued to Chinese citizens, 38 - to Russia, 28 - to Hong Kong residents, 20 - to Turkey, 19 - to the United States). It is estimated that about 3,000 investor visas have been granted in the past ten years, with about 60 percent being given to Chinese and Russian citizens.
From midnight no new applications will be accepted for the Tier-1 investor route, which will remain suspended until further notice. Applications that have already been submitted will be considered in the normal way. Under planned reforms, applicants will have to provide audits of their financial and business interests to prevent people arriving with illegally obtained funds. Audits will have to be carried out by “suitably regulated UK” auditing firms which have no interest in the visa application or any of the planned investments. Applicants will also have to prove that they have had control of the required cash for at least two years before seeking a visa. The rules, which are expected to be introduced next year, will ban investors from putting their money in government bonds.
“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,” Caroline Nokes stated. However, it highlighted the significant benefits to the investors such as the rule of law, security of assets, and access to a high-quality education system. In 2014 the Migration Advisory Committee, the government’s immigration advisers, cast doubt on the extent to which the Tier-1 investor route benefited UK residents.