In early December, the British Immigration Minister announced the Tier 1 visa program would be halted on December 7, 2018, to be followed by an audit into allegations of money laundering and tax fraud. By mid-December, the Home Office had reversed that course. What gives?
In the United Kingdom, Tier 1 visas are available to individuals who can prove they have exceptional talent, or to entrepreneurs looking to set up shop in the UK. The visa is usually available for a price tag of several million pounds.
Because the visas are essentially available to those capable of buying them, Tier 1 documents are termed “golden visas.” Many countries offer these visas as a means of easing travel, and possibly citizenship, in exchange for cold hard currency.
According to The New York Times, the UK initiated its golden visa program in 2008 to attract capital and investment in the country. Since then, wealthy elites have poured money into the country, stashing cash, and gaining the opportunity to apply for permanent residency—depending on the investment.
Three million pounds buys you a permanent residency application in three years, while bumping that up to ten million pounds opens the door in two years. Citizenship for sale? It looks like it.
The original announcement could have been spurred by ongoing reports that the program is an open channel for tax fraud, money laundering, and general corruption. The visas of a cadre of Russian oligarchs who enjoy residency in London have fallen under a cloud since a former Russian military office and his daughter were poisoned earlier this year with a toxic nerve agent. Russia has been widely condemned for the act.
The Tier 1 program in the UK has also attracted investors from the Middle East and China.
After enjoying the influx of capital, the UK has apparently been considering putting the brakes on the program after the National Crime Agency in Britain decried the entry and exit of dirty money through “corrupt elites.”
In announcing the suspension of golden visas on December 7, 2018, Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes, stated, “We will not tolerate people who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the system. That is why I am bringing forward these new measures which will make sure that only genuine investors, who intend to support UK businesses, can benefit from our immigration system."
When the anticipated suspension did not occur, the Home Office was quoted in media as responding, “A further announcement will be made in due course. Any suspension would be implemented through changes to the Immigration Rules.”
Whether the announcement of the suspension was uncoordinated and abrupt, or the government became concerned about turning off the flow of foreign investment, the Tier 1 program is apparently still open for business, with changes promised in the near future. If interested—the time to apply is now.
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