The UK Government has announced the immediate closure of the Investor UK immigration route to new applicants.
This was the route that allowed individuals who had GBP£2 million available to invest in active and trading UK companies to come to the UK to live, work and / or study. This route was particularly attractive to high net worth individuals as it was the only immigration route which allowed individuals to live in the UK on a self-sufficient basis. In addition, it enabled them to bring their dependent family members to the UK, who were also permitted to live, work and / or study in the UK. Furthermore, it was a route which led to indefinite leave to remain in the UK (also known as permanent residence or settlement) which, depending on the amount that the individual invested in the UK, could be achieved after spending five, three or two years in the UK under this category.
The UK Government has closed this category as it is of the view that the route only delivers a small economic benefit to the UK and this is outweighed by longstanding concerns that the route is being used by some individuals to transfer illicitly obtained wealth to the UK. There have also been some recent examples of applicants investing in complex investment schemes with the apparent aim of circumventing the genuine investment requirements of the route.
The UK Government has stated that it intends to replace the category through reforms to the existing Innovator immigration route. This category will offer a route for migrants with a track record of investment activity overseas who have credible plans to engage in such activity in the UK. In order to remain in the UK under this route, migrants will need to demonstrate that they are executing an investment strategy that has created jobs for local workers as well as other tangible economic impacts. It will no longer be possible for individuals to obtain indefinite leave to remain by passively holding UK investments.
It is expected that this new Innovator category will come into effect in Autumn 2022.
Although the UK Government has previously talked about closing this category, and even tried to do so in 2018, it has not done so up until now as it has appreciated the importance of the UK having a flexible immigration route to attract high net worth individuals looking to live, work, study or simply remain in the UK on a self-sufficient basis. A number of other countries, including the US, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand have similar routes so it was seen as vital that the UK should maintain the Investor category to remain globally competitive in the race to attract wealthy individuals to relocate to the country. Unfortunately, for a number of years, the category has been dogged with claims that it is being abused by those who have obtained their wealth by illegal means. Although it has been clear for a number of years that the category is in need of reform to ensure it delivers more tangible economic benefits to the UK and only allows those who have accrued their wealth from legitimate sources to migrate to the UK, closing the category with no notice does seem to be an extreme measure. From our experience, the majority of the individuals applying under this category were the sort of people that do bring benefits to the UK and it is disappointing that the UK immigration options available to them have now been reduced.
There are still a number of immigration options available to high net worth individuals looking to move to the UK so please do contact us if you would like to discuss these further.