UK’s ‘golden visa’ for super rich to continue, sparks outrage
Last week’s announcement to halt the visa, under which the super rich could fast track residencies, came after a review was launched in May into applications since 2015, when the rules were tightened in the wake of concerns over foreign ‘dirty money’.Updated: Dec 12, 2018 20:33 IST
The United Kingdom will continue with its ‘golden visa’ programme for now, the government said on Wednesday, a week after it had decided to suspend the fast track emigration route for rich investors from India and other countries over concerns over money laundering by high net worth individuals.
Last week’s announcement to halt the visa, under which the super rich could fast track residencies, came after a review was launched in May into applications since 2015, when the rules were tightened in the wake of concerns over foreign ‘dirty money’, enabling officials to seek information of source of funds.
The Home Office’s latest decision not to suspend it from Friday last, as announced, sparked outrage among anti-corruption campaigners, who believe the visa route was being used to launder money and allow foreigners with not-a-clean past to migrate to the United Kingdom.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Tier 1 (Investor) visa is not currently suspended. However we remain committed to reforming the route. A further announcement will be made in due course.”
No reason was given for not implementing the announced suspension, but reports said immigration lawyers complained that the Home Office had not given the usual 28 days notice of forthcoming changes, nor had it published the new rules.
Naomi Hirst of campaign group Global Witness said: “This ludicrous U-turn is keeping Britain’s doors open to the super-rich, who can continue to buy residency for £2 million, which they get back with interest.”
Rachel Davies Teka of Transparency International UK said: “It is vital that government has a joined up approach to fighting corruption with departments working together in unison. We are concerned to hear conflicting messages on government action on this important issue over the past week.”
“We call on the government to urgently clarify its policy towards the Tier 1 Visa Scheme, as well as set a timetable for when and how the promised review of previous recipients will be carried out,” she said.
“Any individuals found by this review to have brought suspicious money into the UK should be subject to police investigation into the provenance of all their UK assets,” she demanded.
Launched in 2008, over 1,000 Tier 1 (investors visa) have been granted until September 2018, mostly to Russian and Chinese investors, but they also include 82 Indian millionaires (and their over 100 dependents), according to latest figures.
Under the visa route, initial investments thresholds were £1 million, £5 million or £10 million, which led to permanent residence in 5, 3 or 2 years respectively, and eventual citizenship. The first threshold was raised to £2 million in 2014, while the other two remain the same.