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Got a million? Welcome to Britain

If you have the equivalent of £1 million in the bank, you can settle in Britain even if you cannot speak English. New rules will require millionaires to invest £750,000 within 3 months of their entry. Vijay Dutt finds out.

world Updated: Jan 21, 2008 00:56 IST
Vijay Dutt
Vijay Dutt
Hindustan Times

If you have the equivalent of £1 million (Rs 8.5 crore) in the bank, you can settle in Britain even if you cannot speak English.

All those coming to work in Britain from outside the European Union are normally required to be proficient in English in order to get a visa. But if you are worth more than a million pounds, the condition will be waived for three years. The government does not want to deter investment.

The concession, discussed recently at the Lords Economic Affairs Committee, is part of the government's new points-based scheme for those seeking residency in the country. The new rules will also require millionaires to invest £750,000 in the country within three months of their entry.

Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said openly that rich foreigners were welcome to Britain. “Millionaires bring jobs and investments,” he said. “It is probably not a good idea to shut them out.” Byrne revealed that Japanese engineering firms had expressed concern that they would not be able to move senior managers to Britain, since most of them are not fluent in English. “They are quite nervous about the requirements we intend to insist on,” he said. The Chinese face the same problem.

The proposal will be effective from April 1.

But opposition politicians questioned why “fatcats” were being given special treatment. The Liberal Democrats, in particular, sharply attacked the government on this score. “It is one law for the rich and another for everyone else,” said Lord Oakeshott, Lib Dem Treasury spokesman. “How very New Labour to do a favour for foreign fatcats who can’t even say ‘good morning’ at passport control.”

“If you can not speak a word of English, how can you invest productively?” Lord Oakeshott questioned. He felt the move would “open the door to dodgy foreign businessmen”.

But a Home Office spokesman said there would be strict controls to ensure wealthy migrants had the money they claimed – and that it was subsequently invested in British business. He said they would have to hold £1m or more in the bank or have £2m worth of assets to avoid the English test.

He also clarified that millionaires would still be required to fulfil other criteria, such as proving they did not have a criminal record.