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UK investor visa applicants must prove their control of funds for two years

Monday, 11 March, 2019

Britain's investor visa rules will change on 29 March to require proof that applicants have had control of the required GBP2 million for at least two years, or provide evidence of the source of the funds.

The previous Tier 1 (Investor) visa rules only required the investor to show control of the funds for 90 days. The UK's Home Office announced in December last year that it believed the scheme was being misused to launder illicit funds into the UK and to allow undesirable persons to obtain residence in the country. The reformed requirement, it said, will 'better protect the UK from illegally obtained funds, whilst ensuring that genuine investors have access to a viable visa route'.

However, the Home Office has reconsidered its original plan to introduce retrospective checks on the 3,000 persons who were granted 'golden visas' under the Tier 1 scheme before 2015. These checks will not be implemented in the current tranche of amendments, though officials say they are still being considered. One possibility is that the Home Office has been advised that retrospective background checks may not be legal; its announcement last December that the whole investor visa scheme was to be immediately suspended had to be retracted a week later on legal grounds.

The new rules also state that UK banks must carry out all due-diligence checks before opening accounts for potential applicants. An additional test will allow the Home Office to refuse applications where there are grounds to believe the investment funds have been transferred internationally by unlawful means. New investments will have to be put into businesses rather than UK government bonds, to incentivise investment in active and trading UK companies.

Existing Tier 1 investors will be protected by transitional provisions allowing them until 5 April 2023 to apply for a visa extension under the existing rules, or to apply for settlement. Immigration experts at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth suggest the big changes to the Tier 1 visas are an attempt to encourage international business to the UK following Brexit (which also takes place on 29 March), as well as to mitigate criticism of wealthy foreign investors whose money may come from dubious sources.

  • A separate 'innovator route' will be offered to experienced business people with GBP50,000 to invest.