The UK economy is built on trade, and with London as one of the world’s most important financial centres it draws investors from all over the world. There are endless opportunities in this country for those with the resources, drive and skill to take advantage of them, and ensuring that appropriate overseas investors are permitted to enter the country is vital to the continued prosperity of the UK.
The Home Office has provided a path for investors to enter the country through an investment visa, which permits those individuals with sufficient funds to enter the country. As part of the Tier 1 visa system, the investor visa is subject to several strict controls and applicants must ensure they meet the necessary requirements for approval. In this guide we’ll cover who the visa is for, what rights it grants and how to apply for it; for more detailed information, and to create an application, readers should visit the Government’s Immigration website.
Who is the Investment Visa for?
The aim of the investment visa is to allow individuals with access to significant investment funds to enter the country and its market. There are several key aspects to this type of visa that set it apart from most other Tier 1 visas, some of which are unique to this form of visa. Some of the key points of an investment visa are outlined below:
- Applicants must have access to at least £2,000,000 in “spendable” assets
- An “ultra-fast” premium service is available, which can approve or reject an application within 24 hours
- There is no language requirement
- The visa grants a stay of 40 months
- The visa can be extended for indefinite leave, if the necessary requirements are met
Requirements of an Investment Visa
An investment visa is geared towards a specific type of applicant, one who has a lot of money to invest and the desire to do so in the UK. Unlike most other Tier 1 visa types, the investment visa focuses primarily on the applicant’s financial situation (as you would imagine). As mentioned previously, the applicant must have access to at least £2,000,000 with the intention of investing it in the UK, but there are several key qualifiers that must be met before they will fulfill the necessary requirements.
How the funds are held
The £2m must be “spendable” in the UK, and should be deposited with an FCA-registered UK bank. Funds which have already been invested in the UK may be counted as part of this total, as can assets held in portfolios (as long as they are then liquidated for investment purposes).
Who holds the funds
The applicant must control the funds, but they needn’t own the funds themselves. If the applicant can prove that their spouse or long-term partner holds the funds and has given them control, they will able to count them towards the £2m total.
Where the funds have come from
The applicant must be able to provide evidence of the source of their funding if it hasn’t been in their possession for at least three months. There are many legitimate ways in which an applicant might have received funds at short notice, from an inheritance, gift or disbursement, and there are various documents that must be provided in order to prove this. This requirement is necessary to help guard against money laundering, as the funds cannot be the proceeds of any activity that is illegal in the UK
How the funds are invested
It’s not enough for the applicant to simply have £2 million; they must be planning to invest it in a UK business. In order to obtain entry, the applicant will not need to supply any evidence of their intention to invest, but if they haven’t made significant investments during their stay they will be unable to apply for an extension to their visa.
There are certain restrictions on the type of businesses which individuals may invest in, and certain inappropriate areas are not counted as a legitimate investment for the purposes of this visa. This includes property development and management, open-ended investment groups and offshore financial organisations.
There are no further requirements for an applicant beyond holding sufficient investment funds. The rationale behind this is that their status as a high net worth individual precludes the need for them to work or apply for public funds, so there is no need to prove their language skills or maintenance ability.
Restrictions on Investors in the UK
The terms of entry for investor visas are fairly liberal, and investors are permitted to take part in a wide variety of activities. Immigrants on these visas can work and study (though not as a doctor unless they were previously studying or working as one in the UK), and are free to apply for settlement in the UK.
Extensions and Route to Settlement
Immigrants on an investor visa can apply for indefinite leave to remain after two years if they’ve invested £10 million, or three years if they’ve invested £5 million. This incentivises high net worth individuals to maximise their investments if they intend to live in the UK long-term. Investors can apply for a 2 year extension to their visa if the original visa expires.
Timeframe for applying
Standard applications for a Tier 1 Investor visa take 8 weeks to process, and may be applied for up to 3 months in advance of travel. However, there is a “super premium” 24 hour service available for these high net worth applicants, which allows them to apply for entry at short notice. This service involves the necessary documents being couriered to the applicant, and their biometric information being recorded; the application will then be processed and a decision given within 24 hours.
This ultra-fast service comes at a cost, of course, and applicants will have to pay an overhead cost of £8,750, plus an additional £2,030 for each applicant. This service is only available for applicants who are within the UK.