New government proposals to “sell” investor visas to wealthy individuals

The Telegraph reported last week that the Government was proposing to auction off visas to overseas millionaires or that visas would be offered in exchange for investments in hospitals or universities. This follows concerns that the existing visa criteria for Investors in to the UK  is not working to the advantage of the British economy.

The Telegraph argues that Investor visas are being used as “loans” and are a cheap way for people to stay permanently in the UK (albeit that the minimum investment has to be £1 million). The current system allows for investments to be made in gilts, government bonds or shares in British businesses in return for the investor being allowed to apply for permanent residency in the UK after 5 years. After which, it is then possible for the investor to sell their investments, which is why some have the opinion that this works as a temporary loan from the investor rather than a lasting investment. Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee also stated that the process ought to be examined as it is currently a way for investors to buy gilts and then to sell them at personal gain, which ultimately brings no lasting benefit to the citizens or the economy of this country.

A report in The Times stated that the new proposals will be published next month and will form part of a report from the Government’s Migration Advisory Committee. Professor Sir David Metcalf, Chairman of the MAC, said that it was time for Britain to think more creatively about the Investor Visa route. One proposal is that investors would be able to “bid” for a visa. Another proposal is to offer Investor visas to migrants in exchange for them endowing good causes such as hospitals, universities and colleges. Professor Sir David Metcalf comments that “it may very well be that we should be letting people in if they endow a Cambridge college, a major teaching hospital or the London School of Economics with £10 million.”

However, such proposals are also likely to be seen as controversial as they could be interpreted as a way of “auctioning” these types of visa which can lead to indefinite leave to remain and then British citizenship. In essence, these proposals could be seen as offering to “sell” British citizenship to the highest bidder. The MACs report is therefore eagerly awaited, as it will undoubtedly give a good indication of the likely changes to come for this visa category.

If you require further information regarding the current Tier 1 Investor visa criteria please contact us.

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