UK Citizenship by Investment Changes in 2022
The UK Tier 1 Investor visa scheme, which offered a fast route to UK citizenship by investment, closed to new applications on 17th February 20221. Despite this, there are other alternatives to settlement and UK citizenship available depending on your circumstances.
If you are a business investor interested in residing in the UK, we can discuss the options available to you. Speak to our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or by email at email@example.com.
Closure of UK citizenship by investment
The Tier 1 Investor visa, often referred to as the “UK Golden Visa”, enabled high-net-worth individuals and their family members to make a large financial investment in the UK in return for the right to live and eventually gain residency and citizenship.
The scheme was for those with a minimum of £2 million held in a regulated financial institution to invest in the UK. Investor visa holders and their dependant family members were able to stay in the UK for 3 years (if applying in the UK) or 40 months (if applying outside the UK). Those with investment funds of less than £5 million could apply to extend their visa and apply to settle here (i.e., apply for ILR) after 5 years. Those with more investment funds could apply under the accelerated settlement scheme. This meant it was possible for those with investment funds of £5 million to apply for ILR after 3 years in the UK, and those with £10 million could apply after just 2 years. One year after gaining ILR, it was then possible to apply for British citizenship.
The UK Tier 1 Investor visa scheme closed to new applications on 17th February 2022. The UK investment visa was closed by the Home Office due to concerns regarding security and the legitimacy of some of the funds being used by some Tier 1 Investor visa applicants. As a result, the Home Office made the decision to considerably tighten immigration policy for those investing funds in the UK.
As we explain below, however, there are alternative routes available to those who wish to live, settle and gain UK citizenship by investment.
Tier 1 Investor visa extension
Despite the closure of the UK Investor visa scheme to new applicants, it is still possible to apply for a Tier 1 Investor visa extension.
Under the current rules, you and your dependant family members may be able to extend your Tier 1 Investor visa for up to 2 years if you:
- Have at least £2 million under your control in the UK
- Have invested these funds in share capital (or loan capital) in actively trading UK companies
- Invested these funds within 3 months of when you arrived in the UK or when you switched from a different visa category.
Alternatives to UK citizenship by investment
As a business investor, there are several alternatives to UK citizenship by investment that are open to you. If you wish to live and settle in the UK and ultimately gain British citizenship, you can still do so through business investments in the UK.
However, the main difference with the Tier 1 investor visa closed is that the Home Office now expects applicants to play an active role in a business enterprise here. Under the outgoing investment scheme, it was possible to simply invest funds in UK companies in order to gain a visa and settle.
As such, the focus is less on the number of investment funds and more on adding to or creating viable and sustainable businesses in the UK. Some of the visa options to consider instead of the Tier 1 investor visa include the:
The Innovator visa enables experienced business people from outside the UK with investment funds to establish an innovative business here. Innovator visa applicants must apply for and gain endorsement from an authorised endorsing body in the UK, confirming that their business idea is innovative, viable, and scalable. They must also have at least £50,000 to invest in the new venture.
If granted an Innovator visa, it is possible to bring your dependant family members and stay for up to 5 years initially. At this stage, you can then apply for ILR and, after a further 1-year, British citizenship.
UK start-up visa
The start-up visa scheme is intended for people without an established track record in business. Start-up visa applicants do not require any investment funds, but they must be able to show that they have a new innovative, and viable business idea by gaining endorsement from an approved endorsing body in the UK.
If granted a start-up visa, you will be granted permission to stay for a maximum of two years. It is not possible to extend a start-up visa, and it cannot be used to gain ILR or citizenship directly. It is, however, possible to apply for a different visa type, such as the Innovator visa, which will allow you to gain ILR and citizenship.
Global Talent Visa
The UK’s Global Talent visa is for leaders or potential leaders in either academia or research, arts and culture, or digital technology. Global Talent visa applicants do not require any investment funds, but they must have an endorsement from an authorised endorsing body confirming they are a leader or potential leader in their field. It is possible to apply, however, if they hold an eligible award.
Successful Global Talent visa applicants can apply for ILR after 3 or 5 years, depending on their eligibility. After a further year, it is possible to apply for British citizenship.
The Scale-Up visa is a new immigration route that is expected to open in August 2022. It is intended to help businesses in the UK in the scale-up phase of growth by providing access to the most skilled talent from around the world.
There are two categories under the Scale-Up visa; sponsored or unsponsored, the latter being for those who have previously been granted permission as a scale-up worker. Applicants must have skills of at least RQF level 6 (degree level) and typically have a salary of at least £33,000 per year.
Skilled Worker visa
The Skilled Worker visa is intended for applicants with a skilled job offer from a UK employer. Employers must have a sponsor licence and issue the overseas worker with a Certificate of Sponsorship. Applicants must typically have a salary of at least £25,600 per year, £10.10 per hour, or the ‘going rate’ for their role type. The skill level required is RQF level 3, and the job must be on the Home Office’s list of eligible occupations2.No investment funds are required under this immigration route.
Successful Skilled Worker visa applicants can live and work in the UK for up to 5 years. After 5 years on a Skilled Worker visa, it is possible to apply for ILR and then, 1 year later, apply for UK citizenship.
Common myths of UK citizenship by investment
Contrary to what many prospective migrants believe, there are several myths regarding gaining UK citizenship by investment. Some of these myths include:
Does buying a house in the UK give you residency?
You cannot gain UK citizenship or residency simply by investing in UK houses or properties. While this is possible in some countries, it is not in the UK. The only ways to gain UK citizenship are through the approved immigration routes, including those outlined above. There is nothing to stop you, however, from investing in UK property as a non-resident in the UK.
Can you buy a UK passport?
You cannot buy a UK passport and subsequently UK citizenship. The only way to gain a passport if you are not a national of the UK is through the immigration system. To gain a British passport, you first need to settle (get ILR) here (typically after living here for 5 years) and then gain British citizenship after a further 1 year.
Under some routes, including the Global Talent visa scheme, it is possible to apply for a UK passport after just 4 years (3 years accelerated ILR and 1 further year for citizenship).
How can Reiss Edwards help?
Reiss Edwards specialises in all aspects of immigration law for entrepreneurs, business people, and highly skilled individuals. We can:
- Explain the visa options available to you based on your long-term plans and individual circumstances.
- Check which visas you and your family members are eligible for
- Prepare and submit your immigration application on your behalf and of your family members
- Liaise with the Home Office on your behalf regarding your application
- Make an extension application
- Apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain
- Apply for British citizenship
- Handle a refusal of your application by the Home Office.