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Closure of the Investor visa: Is there any alternative

Gateley Legal

The Home Secretary is reported to be closing the UK’s Tier 1 Investor visa programme. Often referenced as the “golden visa” programme, the visa route is for individuals with £2 million to invest in companies that are active and trading in the UK.

Closure of the Investor visa route

The visa route has been subject to constant amendments since its introduction in 2008 in order to further scrutinise the source of investor’s funds and to assure that the investments were of value to the UK.

Whilst appearing to be a reaction to the current situation developing in Ukraine, the Home Office has been reviewing the merits of the Investor visa programme for some time and so news of its upcoming closure to new applicants can be taken as more than a personal threat to those who may be affected by potential economic sanctions. It is likely a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.

Closure of the route will follow a change to the Immigration Rules going quickly before parliament and so could be imminent.

Will the Investor visa be replaced?

The issue that the Home Office have had with the Investor visa has chiefly been in qualifying an investor’s source of funds. Efforts have been made to pass on this assessment to financial institutions with enhanced due diligence checks, but the Home Office appear to still be unsatisfied that the ‘right’ kind of money is being invested into the UK. It is therefore hard to see how there could be an alternative Investor visa that does not have the same concerns regarding the source of a person’s funds.

Previous reviews of the Investor visa suggest that the Home Office are not concerned with the financial impact of the lack of investment in UK companies that will follow from the closure of the visa route and so it looks likely that options for those investing in the UK will be for applicants who will be actively working with these investments.

An alternative to the Investor visa route

One visa route open to career investors currently is the Global Talent visa.

The Global Talent visa was formally known as the Exceptional Talent visa and is a route for professionals with excellent credentials in their particular specialist field. The visa route doesn’t require the individual to demonstrate access to any amount of cash and can lead to indefinite leave to remain in just three years (the same can be done by an Investor after a £10 million investment).

In the digitech sector, the visa is for professionals in the sector with either technical or business experience, including professionals with a background in significant financing and investing in tech-related companies. The applicant would also need to meet two of the following qualifying requirements:

  1. a proven track record for innovation as a founder or senior executive of a product-led digital technology company or as an employee working on a new digital field or concept; or
  2. proof of recognition for work beyond the applicant’s occupation that contributes to the advancement of the field; or
  3. they have made significant technical, commercial or entrepreneurial contributions to the field as a founder, senior executive, board member or employee of a product-led digital technology company; or
  4. they have demonstrated exceptional ability in the field by academic contributions through research published or endorsed by an expert.

An applicant applying as an investor who is recognised for his/her work in venture capital’s contribution to the advancement of the field of digital technology then needs to either be able to evidence a proven track record for innovation as a founder or senior executive of a product-led digital technology company or as an employee working on a new digital field or concept or that they have made significant technical, commercial or entrepreneurial contributions to the field as a founder, senior executive, board member or employee of a product-led digital technology company.

  • Are you a board-member of a tech company?

  • Do you own or work for a venture capital company that has made investments of at least £25 million into tech companies?

If so, whilst certainly not a ‘like-for-like’ replacement for the Investor visa, there does exist a visa route in the UK for investors of this profile, and one that doesn’t involve further investment of any kind and that leads to indefinite leave to remain in just three years.

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