Residency By Investment In The UK
UK Tier 1 Visas
The UK immigration rules are set to attract investors, entrepreneurs and people of talent. Recent changes have seen the UK close immigration to highly skilled workers and some other immigration categories. Therefore, for wealthy individuals one of the best options in order to qualify for leave to remain in United Kingdom is the Tier 1 Investor Visa.
The investor category is designed to allow wealthy individuals who make a substantial financial investment in the UK to obtain permission from the UK to enter as an investor under the Tier 1 category. The applicant must invest a minimum of GBP 2 million in the UK.
The Tier 1 Investor category has the shortest Investor Immigration application processing time amongst the G8 countries and has very objective entry criteria with a predictable outcome.
The criteria specifies that the applicant must show that they have money of their own under their control in a UK-regulated bank amounting to no less than GBP 2 million.
The individual must invest for five years in the UK by way of UK government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK-registered companies (other than those principally engaged in property investment). Investment in offshore companies is not permitted.
The applicant is not required to show business experience or the ability to speak English. Some nationals (China, Russia, Nigeria among them) are required to undertake a TB test before submitting their application. Investors are permitted to be gainfully employed under this visa or undertake a course of study in the UK.
The UK expects the investor to intend to make the UK their main home by spending more time in the UK than elsewhere, meaning that they are required to spend at least 50% of their time in the UK.
The applicant will initially obtain the Tier 1 visa for 40 months. Within three months of entry into the UK, they are required to make the investment of GBP 2 million which must be maintained throughout the period of leave.
At the expiry of the initial 40 month period, the investor must apply for an ‘extension of stay’. The UK government will grant a two year extension of stay to the whole family if the investor has satisfied the requirements for leave to enter, i.e. maintained the investment and adhered to the other general conditions for leave to enter.
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 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 higher level of investment; their dependents (spouse and children) can only apply for permanent residence after living for 5 years in 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 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.
UK Permanent Residence
On completion of five years of continuous lawful residence, the investor may apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK (ILR). They must demonstrate that they have legally spent a continuous period of five years in the UK (or two or three years as appropriate if a larger investment option was taken), and have maintained the conditions required by the permit.
The main applicant and their dependants must pass the ‘Life in the UK’ test prior to gaining settlement, as well as showing that they have sufficient knowledge of the English language. There is also a criminality threshold that requires all applicants to be clear of unspent convictions.
Grant of UK Citizenship
In order to qualify for citizenship, the family must satisfy the residence requirements, i.e. to not have spent more than 450 days outside the UK in the previous five years; and not to have spent more than 90 days outside the UK in the year immediately preceding the application.
An applicant must first achieve ILR, which is usually possible within five years, and they can then apply for citizenship within one year, subject to meeting the criteria above.
Once citizenship and a UK passport have been granted, there is no restriction on the time that must be spent in the UK.