UK Investor Visas Explored

united kingdom investor visas
UK Tier 1 Visas

United Kingdom Tier 1 Visas Explained

There are two sub-classes of Tier 1 visas and we will look at both of them.

First is the investor option, and second is the entrepreneur route.

These two versions are similar in many regards, and often it is down to personal and lifestyle choices that will determine which is the best choice for you.

Tier 1 Investor Visa Overview

The Tier 1 Investor visa is designed to attract high net worth non-EEA nationals to invest and live in the UK.

Tier 1 Investor visa holders and their immediate family (spouse and children under the age of 18) are allowed to live in the UK, however they are not required to work, study or undertake business activities here, nor do they need to pass any English language tests or satisfy the maintenance requirements associated with many other visa categories.

One of the benefits of the Tier 1 Investor visa category is that holders of this visa (and their family members) will have access to the UK’s education system. In addition, the Tier 1 Investor category provides a pathway towards British Citizenship after a period of 6 years provided the required criteria are satisfied.

Specific requirements – Tier 1 Investor visa

To qualify for the Tier 1 Investor visa the applicant must achieve a score of 75 by proving they:

  • Have money of their own under their control which is held in a regulated financial institution and disposable in the UK amounting to not less than £2 million; and
  • Have opened an account with a UK regulated bank for the purposes of investing not less than £2 million in the UK. Note that as of 6 April 2015 it is a requirement that applicants must have a UK regulated investment bank account before making their initial application.

In addition to the criteria above it is important to note that you must be at least 18 years old to make an application, and the assets and investment you are claiming points for must be wholly under your control.

Accelerated route to permanent residence by increased investment amounts

On April 6, 2011, the Government announced new rules which provide the ability to achieve Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK (ILR), which is a permanent residence, through an accelerated route. The new requirement is an increased investment. An investment of GBP 10 million or more will provide for settlement after two years, and an investment of GBP 5 million or more will provide for settlement after three years, instead of the usual five years. It is important to know that only the main applicant will have his/her route to permanent residence fast-tracked through a higher level of investment; their dependents (spouse and children) can only apply for permanent residence after living for 5 years in the UK.

Application for dependants

The main applicant’s spouse and children under the age of 18 years can apply as dependants. The UK investor visa does not provide directly for dependent parents, who may be required to apply for leave to enter the UK under a different visa category. Whilst in the UK with this type of leave, Tier 1 investor children are permitted to study for their A-levels at a private school and can then progress to university. This means that they can use this route to achieve indefinite leave to remain by the time they are 22 years old, assuming they meet the requirements regarding residence. Alternatively, the parents and other extended family members could consider obtaining an alternative citizenship and passport such as Antigua & Barbuda, so that they may travel freely into the UK for up to a six month period at any one time.

Investments and source of funding

The money to be invested should be held in the bank account for 2 years prior to application. If the money has been held in the bank account or portfolio for less than 2 years, it is necessary to give specified evidence of the source of the money. The source of funding in this case can be one of the following:

  • Gift
  • Sale deed
  • Evidence from a business
  • Will
  • Divorce Settlement
  • Award or winnings
  • Other sources – considered on a case by case basis whereby specified evidence must be provided.

Investor visa duration

Initially, investor visas are granted for three years and four months. They can then be extended for another two years by providing evidence that an investment of at least £ 2 million was made in the UK.

UK Investor visa extensions

When applying for an extension to a Tier 1 Investor visa applicants must demonstrate the following:

  • You must show that you have invested not less than £2 million in the UK by way of UK Government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies.
  • Investors are required to make their investment in the UK in the form of UK Government bonds, share capital or loan capital. Note that the funds must not be invested in companies mainly engaged in property investment, property management or property development.

Investor visas & indefinite leave to remain (ILR)

The length of time required to qualify for ILR/permanent residence depends on the amount of investment, as follows:

  • Investment of £2 Million
    As an investor you will qualify for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after five years, provided that you have invested £2,000,000 in the UK.
  • Investment of £5 million
    If you invest £5,000,000 you will be able to apply for ILR after the investment has been in place for three years.
  • Investment of £10 million
    If you invest £10,000,000 you will be able to apply for ILR after the investment has been in place for at least two years.

In order to qualify for settlement (ILR) investors are not permitted to spend more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12 calendar month period.

Switching to the UK investor visa

Holders of one of the following visa categories are eligible to switch into the Tier 1 Investor category while remaining in the UK.

  • A highly skilled migrant
  • A Tier 1 (General) migrant
  • A Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrant
  • A Tier 1 (Post – Study Work) migrant
  • A Tier 2 migrant
  • A Business Person
  • An Innovator
  • A Tier 4 student
  • A student
  • A student nurse
  • A student re-sitting an examination
  • A student writing up a thesis
  • A Work Permit holder
  • A writer, composer or artist
  • An Investor

The Tier 1 Innovators and Start-up Visa Guide

The Tier 1 start-up and innovators visa category is for foreign national business persons who would like to come to the UK to establish a business or join and invest in an existing innovative business.

Individuals applying for either of these visas must have their business ideas assessed by an endorsing body for:

  • Innovation – genuine, original business plan
  • Viability – has/actively developed necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business
  • Scalability – evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets

An endorsement letter confirming the above and other information will need to be obtained from an endorsing body “such as business accelerators, seed competitions and government agencies, as well as higher education providers” which is either:

  1. A recognised UK higher education institution, which has established processes for identifying, nurturing and developing entrepreneurs amongst its undergraduate and postgraduate population (for the Start-up route only); OR
  2. An organisation with a proven track record of supporting UK entrepreneurs, whose request to become an endorsing body is supported by a UK devolved government department (for both the Start-up and Innovator routes).

Under this category the main applicant’s immediate family members (‘dependents’) can join them in the UK. This includes the main applicant’s partner and children under the age of 18. The applicant’s children will be eligible to participate in the UK’s education system. In addition, this visa category also provides holders with a pathway to permanent residency and subsequently British citizenship.

Eligibility requirements

To submit a successful application you must be at least 16 years of age.

To achieve the funds requirements applicants need to have access to either:

  • At least £50,000, with all funds to be disposable (free to spend) and held in a regulated financial institution; or
  • At least £50,000 available from one of the following sources:
    • 1 or more registered venture capital firms regulated by the Financial Services authority; or
    • 1 or more UK entrepreneurial seed funding competitions listed as endorsed on the UK Trade and Investment website, or
    • 1 or more UK government departments, which have made the funds available for the specific purpose of establishing or expanding a UK business.

It's important to understand those holders of a Tier 1 visa may not seek or undertake paid employment in the UK other than working for the business or businesses that they have established, joined or taken over.

UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur visas duration

These visas are initially granted for a period of three years and four months. This visa can be extended for an additional two years provided specific requirements are met. See the section below regarding the start-up and innovators visa extensions for more information.

Entrepreneur visa extension

You may extend your visa for an additional two years providing the following conditions are met:

  • You have invested £50,000 into an innovative company; and
  • The company has been registered within 6 months of the date you were granted permission to stay in the UK under this category; and
  • You have created at least 2 full-time positions for settled workers. For a new business, this means that an aggregate of two positions, full time or equivalent, must have been created with each lasting for at least one year. In cases where an applicant has taken over control of an established UK business, their investment and presence in the company must have created two positions similar to those outlined above.

You should include any dependents who are on your current visa on your application to extend - including children who have turned 18 during your stay.

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

Once you have been in the UK for 5 years you will be eligible to apply for settlement in the UK, also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

To qualify for ILR you must:

  • Have lawfully resided in the UK on this visa for 5 years. Note that in order to qualify you can have no more than 180 days absence from the UK in each of these years.
  • Be able to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the English language and life in the UK.

Alternatively, ILR status can be achieved after 3 years if the following criteria are met:

  • You have invested £50,000 in the company; and
  • The company has been registered within 6 months of the date you were granted permission to stay in the UK under the Entrepreneur category; and
  • You have created at least 10 full-time positions for settled workers. For a new business, this means that an aggregate of two positions, full time or equivalent, must have been created with each lasting for at least one year. In cases where an applicant has taken over control of an established UK business, their investment and presence in the company must have created 10 positions similar to those outlined above; or
  • Established a new business with income activity of at least £5m during the 3 year period.

British Citizenship

Once you have been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain you then have a pathway towards qualifying for British citizenship.

Typically, Entrepreneur visa holders are eligible to apply for British citizenship after having spent 6 years in the UK, however, there are faster routes available for those responsible for creating businesses with a high turnover or a high number of jobs.

Switching into the UK Tier 1 innovators and start-up visa category

You can make an application to switch into this visa category provided that you are already in the UK under one of the following categories and you satisfy the necessary eligibility requirements:

  • Tier 1 (General)
  • Tier 1 (Investor)
  • Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur)
  • Business person
  • Innovator
  • Highly Skilled Migrant Programme
  • Work permit holder
  • Self-employed lawyer
  • Writer, composer or artist
  • Investor
  • International Graduate Scheme (or its predecessor, the Science and Engineering Graduate Scheme)
  • Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme
  • Tier 2
  • Prospective entrepreneur
  • A visitor who has been carrying out permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur

You can also switch from one of the following categories if you have specific types of funding:

  • Tier 1 (General)
  • Tier 1 (Post-study work)
  • Tier 4
  • Student
  • Student re-sitting an examination
  • Student nurse
  • Student writing up a thesis
  • Postgraduate doctor or dentist

Please note that if you are a holder of another UK visa not listed above, you are required to leave the United Kingdom and submit your visa application from abroad.

Create a UK Trust

A trust is created where a person, referred to as "the Settlor" transfers assets to "Trustees" (appointed by the Settlor who could be friends / family / solicitors etc) entrusting them to hold those assets for the benefit of others called "beneficiaries" for a certain period of time ("the Trust Period") which is usually a period of up to one hundred and twenty-five years

Why use a trust?

Trusts are generally used to protect assets for particular beneficiaries or particular purposes, to save inheritance tax or a combination of both. As such, trusts can be included within wills or created during a person's lifetime.

A person with assets to spare (a donor) may be prepared to make absolute gifts of those assets to relatives or friends. A direct gift has the merit of simplicity and will be classed a "Potentially Exempt Transfer". In other words, providing the donor survives for seven years, and does not retain a benefit, the value of the gift will not be added to the value of that donor's estate for the purpose of calculating Inheritance Tax on death.

There are, however, a number of reasons why a donor may not wish to make absolute gifts. For example where children or grandchildren are not mature enough to deal with sums of money; where there is the possibility that more children or grandchildren will be born; where the children themselves own estates which would suffer Inheritance Tax at their death.

A trust would enable these issues to be taken into account without losing complete control over the assets gifted.

A trust can also allow a particular person to benefit from a gift of assets for a period of time, after which, those assets can pass to different persons, and can even create flexibility in case circumstances change.

By gifting the assets to a trust, therefore, rather than to an individual outright, a donor is able to remove assets from his estate, so that the "seven-year clock" can commence ticking, whilst at the same time retaining control and flexibility if required.

Our trust specialists can:

  • Advise you on setting up and running a trust
  • Keep trust accounts for the trustees
  • Prepare tax returns for the trustees
  • Advise you on the taxation consequences of setting up a trust and releasing assets from a trust
  • Draw up documentation to bring the trust to an end

Trust Formation and Trustee Services

Trusts have many applications and advantages, including the protection and preserving of assets, tax planning or just avoiding the expense and delays of obtaining probate under a will. They also provide a high degree of confidentiality.

Under UK legislation, different types of trust are taxed differently. The main types of trust are:

  • Bare trusts – Assets in a bare trust are held in the name of a trustee. However, the beneficiary has the right to all of the capital and income of the trust at any time if they are 18 or over (in England and Wales), or 16 or over (in Scotland). This means the assets set aside by the settlor will always go directly to the intended beneficiary.
  • Interest in possession (IIP) trusts – These are trusts where the trustee must pass on all trust income to the beneficiary as it arises (less any expenses).
  • Discretionary trusts – These are where the trustees can make certain decisions about how to apply trust income, and sometimes the capital. Depending on the trust deed, trustees can decide:
    • what gets paid out (income or capital)
    • which beneficiary to make payments to
    • how often payments are made
    • any conditions to impose on the beneficiaries
  • Accumulation trusts – This is where the trustees can accumulate income within the trust and add it to the trust’s capital. They may also be able to pay income out, as with discretionary trusts.
  • Mixed trusts – These are a combination of more than one type of trust. The different parts of the trust are treated according to the tax rules that apply to each part.
  • Settlor-interested trusts – These are where the settlor or their spouse or civil partner benefits from the trust. The trust could be an IIP trust, an accumulation trust or a discretionary trust.

Sovereign has extensive experience of dealing with the establishment and administration of trusts and appropriate planning for income tax, capital gains tax (CGT) and inheritance tax (IHT) purposes.

Our knowledge of the tax legislation relating to trusts and the duties and obligations of trustees enables us to ensure that trusts are properly managed – dealing with annual accounts, filing tax returns and liaising with beneficiaries over distributions. With our international reach, we can also advise clients with cross-border interests and work with other jurisdictions to administer trusts and estates.

Private Trust Companies

A Private Trust Company (PTC) is a company formed for the specific purpose of acting as trustee of a single trust, or a group of related trusts. This enables family members to participate in the management of the company and therefore in the decisions that need to be taken by the PTC as trustee, including decisions relating to the control and management of companies owned by the trustee.

This degree of participation would not be possible if the trustee was a third party professional trust company, which will often not be in a position to offer the settlor the degree of flexibility and the speed of response that they require – and its employees cannot be expected to be as familiar with the business of companies owned by the trust as the family members themselves. Decisions may have to be referred internally or external advice obtained before they can be put into effect and, if a change of trustee is desired, it can be a lengthy and expensive process. Under the PTC structure, these problems can be largely avoided. Directors familiar with the business make the decisions and, if a change of direction is desired for the management of the trust, this can be achieved simply by changing the board of the PTC. A PTC can, therefore, provide greater comfort for the settlor that his or her objectives in creating the trust will be met.

It is usual and advisable to have at least one director who is a trust expert because running a trust company is complicated and is also very different from running a normal company. To avoid any challenge to the status of a trust, we believe it is vital to have expertise on the board to add substance and credibility to the PTC and to ensure that the PTC – and any trusts that it administers – is run correctly. The directors of the PTC must remember that all decisions that they take in relation to the trust must be in the interests of all beneficiaries.

Generally, an offshore trust will only be subject to the offshore tax regime if it is administered by a trust company that is managed and controlled offshore. To achieve this, it will generally be necessary to have at least a majority of directors residing offshore. If the settlor is an onshore resident, then they could be one of the directors, but onshore family members should not form a majority on the board.

More important than the constitution of the board will be the ultimate ownership of the PTC because of this will, if the owners feel it necessary, allow them to remove directors and replace them. In this way, the aim of having more control over the affairs of a trust would not be compromised, even if no family members were represented on the board, provided that ownership is in the hands of the settlor or his family. For this reason, a PTC is best set up as a company limited by guarantee whose members can be appointed and removed, or cease to be members, upon death or the attainment of a certain age. As a result, the ultimate control of the PTC can rest with the family irrespective of the constitution of the board of directors, thereby giving the settlor added comfort, while also avoiding any problems associated with having to transfer shares upon the death of a member.

Company Formation and Management Services

The UK corporation tax is currently the second lowest in the G7. From April 2015, a uniform rate of 20% payable against the global net profits of a UK company. Including a UK entity in any structure can substantially help to secure significant cross-border tax benefits. No other country has as many tax treaties as the UK and dividends, interest, royalties, consultancy fees or marketing commissions can all be received by a UK company without the levels of withholding tax or anti-avoidance rules that would apply to direct payments to an offshore entity.

UK Holding Companies

A UK company can be a useful vehicle for the collection or channelling of foreign dividend income received from qualifying subsidiaries. The general rule is that all dividends paid by a subsidiary to a UK parent company are subject to corporate income tax. Nevertheless, the UK grants double tax relief by way of a credit for foreign corporation tax underlying the dividends provided that the UK company holds, directly or indirectly, at least 10% of the share capital of the distributing company. If the foreign company is subject to a corporate tax rate of 20% or more, the credit will usually be a complete relief from UK corporation tax. If the UK company is itself owned by an offshore company, the dividend income received by the UK company can generally be absorbed by the offshore parent company without consequence to further taxation.

If the UK company owns a group of active subsidiaries (at least two) and one of these were to be sold, since 2002 the resulting capital gain arising to the UK holding company should not be subject to UK tax via a relief called the substantial shareholding exemption. For a company to benefit from the exemption, the holding company must hold at least 10% of the share capital of the subsidiary for a period of 12 continuous months within the two years prior to the disposal. The UK holding company and the subsidiary it is selling must both be trading companies, and their activities cannot include substantial extent activities other than trading activities. These conditions must be satisfied both before and after the disposal of the shares.

The UK has signed over 100 double taxation treaties and coupled with the attractive holding company regulations, the UK is an extremely attractive domicile to establish an international headquarters, especially for business expansion into Europe and the rest of the world.

UK Trading Companies

Offshore companies engaged in international trade can be perceived negatively but this issue can often be resolved by using a UK company in conjunction with an offshore company. A UK company involved with a commercial activity enters into an agreement with an offshore company under which it agrees that it will trade on behalf of the offshore company as its nominee. All contracts of purchase and sale and all invoicing will be made out in the name of the UK company, which will also receive any revenues as nominee for the offshore principal. The agreement should state that all monies received are received as nominee for the principal except for an agreed fee, which will be retained by the UK company. That fee is usually expressed as a percentage of the gross revenues received. The standard form is that 10% of profits are retained by way of the fee by the UK company, resulting in an effective rate of corporation tax of around 2%.

It is essential that: no trading activity takes place in the UK; no UK-source income is generated; both the UK and offshore company are managed by a different board of directors not a resident of the UK; and that the ultimate beneficial ownership of each company is distinctly different and should also be a non-UK resident. The UK company should still be able to obtain a UK VAT number, its bank account can be located in the UK, and accounting and regular administration services can be provided and enabled in the UK.

UK Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP)

The essential feature of an LLP is that it combines the organisational flexibility and tax status of a partnership with limited liability for its members. This limited liability is possible because an LLP is a legal person separate from its members. However, LLPs are “tax transparent” which means that each member, rather than the partnership itself, will be assessed to tax on their share of the LLP’s income or gains. Any non-UK source profits or gains made by an LLP will not be subject to UK tax unless the members are UK resident individuals or companies. There are no restrictions on the residence or nationality of the members of an LLP and therefore, if the members of the LLP are non-resident and the income of the LLP is a non-UK source, the LLP will not be subject to UK taxation.

It should be noted that LLPs with overseas members cannot generally avail themselves of treaty benefits because of the LLP’s tax transparent status. In determining residence status a UK LLP would be deemed resident in the jurisdiction from which it is controlled, which would ordinarily be the jurisdiction in which its members are situated. There is an obligation for an LLP to file an annual partnership tax return whether the partners are taxed or not.

Family Investment Companies (FIC)

Inheritance tax (IHT) is a major issue for anyone that is the UK domiciled or has assets within the UK. UK-domiciled individuals are subject to IHT charged against their worldwide estate at a rate of 40%. Gifts to an individual are potentially exempt transfers (PETs) provided that the donor survives for seven years after making the gift and provided that the donor does not continue to enjoy the gifted asset. With an FIC, however, it is possible to eliminate IHT while also enabling a donor to enjoy some degree of control over the asset.

The FIC should, from the outset, issue multiple classes of shares however it will be important for the head of the family to be the unique shareholder of all share classes before any share reorganisation takes place. We recommend that the following classes of share are authorised:

  • Shares, which carry voting rights but not rights to income or capital
  • B shares. which may carry rights to income but no voting rights and no rights to capital
  • C shares, which carry no voting rights and no rights to income but all rights to capital

From the outset, the head of the family will make a transfer of assets in exchange for becoming a registered shareholder of all share classes. There is no chargeable transfer because assets have simply been exchanged such that there is no resulting loss in their estate. Thereafter the Class C shares can be gifted to family members. Class B income shares can be retained by the head of the family. The B shares may have a modest value but it would be minor compared to the value of the Class C shares. The Class A voting shares will have little or no value but will allow the holder to control the FIC and therefore dictate what happens to the assets owned by the FIC. As a result, the head of the family can continue to administer corporate assets without interference but will have given away the substantial value – which is contained in the Class C shares. UK IHT is therefore eliminated or reduced provided that the head of the family survives for seven years after giving away the valuable Class C shares.

Once a UK entity is incorporated, we provide a domiciliary service, which includes the provision of company secretarial, registered office and nominee shareholder services. Full management services from our own licensed corporate directors are also available and highly advisable in most cases. Re-mailing services are available at modest cost for all companies established by Sovereign.

Note: Ancillary services

In addition to providing incorporation, domiciliary and management (directorship) services, a range of ancillary services at competitive prices is available on request. These services include but are not limited to the provision of dedicated telephone lines; office and personal assistance; designated staff members (temporary or permanent availability); assistance with office relocation, introduction to real estate agents, government agencies and other third parties.

30 interesting facts about the UK

  1. London has four UNESCO world heritage sites: Tower of London, Maritime Greenwich, Westminster Palace which includes Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret’s Church as well as Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens.
  2. London has over 170 museums with 11 national museums including the British Museum.
  3. A third of all the UK’s archives are in London, including the National Archives which dates back to the 11th century and preserves William the Conqueror’s Domesday survey.
  4. In the UK you are never more than 70 miles (113km) from the sea.
  5. It is considered an act of treason to put a postage stamp with the queen’s head upside down on an envelope.
  6. The UK is the only country not required to name itself on its postage stamps.
  7. London was over the past called Londonium, Ludenwic, and Ludenburg.
  8. In 1647, Christmas was abolished by the English Parliament.
  9. England was part of the shortest war in history, they fought Zanzibar in 1896 who surrendered after 38 minutes.
  10. There are over 30,000 people with the name John Smith in England.
  11. The Great Fire of London destroyed large parts of the city, but the casualty rate was just eight.
  12. Buckingham Palace has its own police station.
  13. Windsor Castle is the largest royal home in the world.
  14. Placing a stamp bearing the King or Queen’s image upside-down is considered as treason.
  15. Macbeth is the most produced play ever written. On average, a performance is staged every 4 hours somewhere in the world.
  16. The first fish and chip restaurant was opened in 1860 by a Jewish immigrant.
  17. 25% of the people living in London today are born in another country.
  18. The London 2012 Olympics was the first time that every country had at least one female athlete.
  19. The English invented the world’s earliest railways.
  20. William the Conqueror ordered everyone to be in their beds by 8 pm.
  21. The Queen of the UK is the legal owner of one-sixth of the Earth’s land surface.
  22. A beer wave of 388,000 gallons (or 1.4ml) flooded London in 1814 after a huge vat ruptured.
  23. In the UK, accents change noticeably every 25 miles (45 km).
  24. In the UK all horses, donkeys and ponies must have a horse passport.
  25. Nigeria has more English speakers than the UK.
  26. In the 16th century, a London law forbade wife beating after 9:00 pm, but only because the noise disturbed people’s sleep.
  27. The UK and Portugal hold the longest standing alliance in the world. It was ratified in 1386 and is still in force.
  28. The British Empire at its height was larger than Africa and was even comparable in size to the Moon.
  29. The King of Norway is 73rd in line to the British throne.
  30. Edward VIII, King of the UK in 1936, was a Nazi sympathiser and later argued that bombing England could bring peace by ending WW2.

Booking a Consultation

Complete our online enquiry form and one of our senior managers will arrange a confidential consultation to discuss your requirements and potential options.

At Haskew Law, our team are highly acclaimed as ready to manage even the most complex of cases. Our thesis, however, is to keep things as simple as possible. We believe it is important our clients are comfortable and remain in control of their international plans throughout the process. We endeavour to protect our clients best interests while delivering outstanding results.


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