The UK has always been an attractive destination for high net worth individuals. Since the 2008 introduction of the Points Based System, which sets out the rules for individuals wishing to enter the UK for study, work and investment purposes, the Government has made a number of alterations to the Tier 1 (Investor) category to make it more attractive to investors.
An overview of the UK’s immigration rules for investors as of June 2013
High net worth non-EU nationals can come to the UK under the Tier 1 (Investor) route if they have:
a) money of their own under their control held in a regulated financial institution and disposable in the UK amounting to not less than £1 million; or
(b) (i) they own personal assets which, taking into account any liabilities to which they are subject, have a value exceeding £2 million, and
(ii) they have money under their control held in a regulated financial institution and disposable in the UK amounting to not less than £1 million which has been loaned to the individual by a UK regulated financial institution.
Also, all applicants who are applying under the Points Based System need to satisfy general rules relating to criminal convictions, civil judgments and prior immigration breaches to demonstrate that they are suitable for a UK visa. The general rules relating to English language and maintenance do not apply to the Tier 1 (Investor) category.
Applications must generally be submitted at a visa application centre in the individual’s country of residence. However, if the individual is already in the UK in an immigration category that allows them to switch into the investor route, as explained in more detail below, the application can be filed with the immigration authorities in the UK.
Within three months of being granted permission to enter or stay, or within three months of entering the UK, not less than 75% of the individual’s capital must be invested in the UK by way of UK Government bonds, share capital and/or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies. Certain restrictions apply and, for example, investment in companies principally engaged in property investment, management or development is not permitted.
The remaining 25% must be invested in the UK via the purchase of assets (this can include property) or by maintaining the money on deposit in a UK regulated financial institution.
Personal funds and borrowed funds cannot be mixed to meet the minimum investment requirement.
If the investment is not made within the three months period, the investor’s permission to stay in the UK could be curtailed, or applications for extensions and indefinite leave to remain could be refused.
Dependant family members are entitled to reside in the UK with the investor. Dependants are defined as children, spouses and civil partners and non-married partners, including those in LGBTI relationships, who have lived with the main applicant for at least two years in a relationship akin to marriage.
In certain circumstances, it may be possible for children to obtain their own Tier 1 (Investor) status. This could mean, for instance, that they qualify for indefinite leave to remain during their education in the UK when they would otherwise not be able to under the Tier 4 student category. That could see them gaining valuable experience working in the UK immediately after finishing university.
Joint assets can be taken into account when assessing net worth. Typically either spouse or partner can be the main applicant. Careful consideration should be given as to whom should be the main applicant taking into account issues such as tax and residency and other important considerations.
Individuals who are already living in the UK may be entitled to switch into Tier 1 (Investor) depending on their immigration status. Visitors are not permitted to switch unless there are exceptional circumstances but, for example, those with Highly Skilled Migrant, Tier 1 (General), Tier 1 (Post-Study Work), Tier 2 and Tier 4 status can do so.
Visa conditions and length of stay
Tier 1 (Investor) migrants are entitled to work in the UK on an employed or self-employed basis other than as a doctor or dentist in training or as a professional sportsperson. They may not have recourse to public funds.
The main applicant and their dependants will be granted permission to live in the UK for three years and four months initially.
Extensions and indefinite leave to remain
Providing the investment in the UK is continuously maintained at or above the minimum £1 million level the individual will be eligible to apply for an extension before the expiry of their first visa.
Unless the rules relating to accelerated settlement apply (see below) investors and their dependants will qualify for indefinite leave to remain after five years continuous residence providing that:
a) the investment is maintained, and
b) the rules relating to permitted absences are met (see below), and
c) they have passed tests relating to English language and life in the UK.
The phrases indefinite leave to remain, permanent residence and settlement all have the same meaning in so far as these rules are concerned.
Those who invest £10 million or more can apply for indefinite leave to remain after two years. Those who invest between £5 million and £10 million can apply for indefinite leave to remain after three years.
Recent changes also mean that investors can spend up to 180 days (six months) a year outside the UK and still qualify for indefinite leave to remain.
When the investor has resided in the UK for five years and has held indefinite leave to remain for a year, they may apply to naturalise as a British citizen.
Different rules relating to permitted absences apply for those wishing to naturalise as a British citizen, and these are much stricter than the 180-day requirement for maintaining Tier 1 (Investor) status. The rules should be understood and complied with from the moment a Tier 1 (Investor) visa is granted to ensure that the individual will ultimately qualify to naturalise. Once naturalised, the individual will be able to apply for a British passport and will benefit from free movement rights within the EU and EEA.
Character and suitability
The rules relating to the initial and extension applications and the applications for settlement and British citizenship all require individuals to demonstrate that they are of a suitable character. If criminal convictions or civil judgements, for instance, are not declared then this can trigger refusals and, in the worst-case scenario, a ban of up to 10 years from entering the UK. While it is possible to mount legal challenges against such decisions, it is critical that full consideration is given to the rules relating to character and suitability.