It was reported last year that the number of foreign investors moving to Britain dropped more than 80 per cent during the year to March 2016, as the popularity of the “golden visa” regime was impacted by higher costs, stricter rules and more competition. This year however, reports have surfaced that more foreign investors are looking to the UK’s tier 1 entrepreneur visa with a view to entering the country, and finding out how business will be conducted in post-Brexit Britain.
The collapse in the value of the pound has helped London become a hotspot again for foreign investors in recent months, attracting more investment than anywhere else in Europe. Various reports indicate that London has eclipsed the amount of foreign investment received by some of Europe’s biggest cities, including Berlin and Paris. Immigration experts attribute rising interest in the tier 1 entrepreneur visa to an urgency among business people to ‘gain a foothold’ in the Western European market.
Traditionally, travel freedom and opportunity confines as well as economic, political and security concerns have fuelled investment into second passports.
While citizenship programmes are generally not for the poor-of-purse; residency programmes are often the more ‘inexpensive’ option but few residency programmes offer a path to citizenship without lengthy stay requirements. Long stay requirement programmes include the UK’s minimum £2m Tier 1 investor programme but it maintains a wide appeal.
Often very successful business people from the Middle East or Africa want the mobility that a second passport entails, with those granting EU access especially highly prized. But, equally for others, alternative citizenship can offer a safe-haven in times of trouble. Clients often seek a more secure future – whether that be in investment of their assets, or in physical security.
The UK system has tended to assume that the more money an applicant has the more desirable the applicant will be. The Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, a points-based system introduced under Labour in 2002, awarded more points for those with higher earnings. Tier 1 visas simply take this principle to its logical extreme.
It would appear that Brexit uncertainty combined with the UK’s unique mix of a safe-haven and access to European markets has created a new demand of Tier 1 applicants.