Anyone contemplating the UK Tier 1 immigrant visa programme for entrepreneurs needs to take careful advice before embarking on such a project.

For many years the UK Tier 1 was an easy ticket. Invest £200,000 in a business and gain residency in the UK for at least three years. According the the Independent Migration Advisory Committee a total of 13,746 UK Tier 1 investor visas had been issued since 2008 but only 1,580 active companies had been set up by the process. The committee said it had found “substantial evidence of low quality businesses” set up by such entrepreneurs. Read article in Financial Times.

 In 2015 the UK government introduced the “Genuine Entrepreneur Test” which has made it far more difficult for investors to meet the criteria of the programme. In a bid to reduce fraudulent applicants a business plan was made compulsory for all investors. Applications are studied in detail by immigration officers and investors need to demonstrate their ability to start a business in the UK and provide evidence of source of funds. The  rejection rate for applications recently was around 70%.

For some time now immigration has been a hot topic for the government and was the single key issue that led to the recent referendum on the UK leaving the EU. The recent case of the Canadian family who entered the UK on a Tier 1 investor visa only to have their renewal refused this year is further evidence of a tightening of the rules by the British government.

If the failure rate was 70% before this point then it is only likely to rise further after the historic UK vote on 23 June 2016 to leave the EU. While it is still possible to apply for the programme applicants risk losing substantial fees to lawyers and advisors who typically charge a £15,000 non-refundable fee to submit an application that has little chance of success.

Contrast this with the golden visa programmes elsewhere in Europe where a straightforward investment in real estate is guaranteed to gain a residency visa with 100% success.

It is clear the UK Tier 1 needs a complete overhaul and that the UK government currently has no appetite for immigration in any form. Wealthy investors are being deterred from UK immigration and this is unlikely to change for some years until the UK has finally left the EU and formulated a coherent investor immigration policy.

Tags: brexit, UK


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