Are major changes to the Tier 1 Investor Visa category on their way in April this year?

News has recently been circulating that the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is set to review the impact that Tier 1 Investor Visas have had on the UK economy in the past few years, and their ongoing benefit to its growth. The Government has now tasked the same committee that was recently commissioned to look into the financial requirements of spouse visas with carrying out a similar analysis on Tier 1 visas in the investor category. The hope is that the research will establish new or improved ways that investor visas can provide ongoing benefits to the UK economy and growth and entice more investors from outside of the UK and, especially, outside of Europe.

Under the current requirements, those applying for a UK investor visa must commit to investing a minimum of £1million into a UK company or companies. 25% of the overall investment must be a deposit or be allocated to the purchase or acquisition of assets, while the main 75% bulk of the investment must be in the form of loan capital or bonds invested with a view to fuelling growth. The changes that are set to be proposed to the visa requirements include the opportunity for individuals from outside of the UK to ‘invest’ in community-related projects or charitable organisations, as well as private companies. With speculation surrounding possible changes rife, some have gone as far as to suggest that the new changes could include entry to the UK on a Tier 1 visa in return for a monetary ‘gift’ to the UK, leading critics to insinuate, and in some instances outwardly accuse, that the UK Government intend to effectively ‘sell’ visas and UK residency under the Tier 1 investor category.

In the past couple of years, there has been seemingly little interest in investor visas in comparison to the other UK visa categories. It has been suggested that the lack of interest in UK investor visas may be to do with the less stringent and more cost effective visa options elsewhere in Europe. With the main attraction of investor visas being the chance at becoming an EU citizen, investors often weigh up their options from various European locations and the UK’s current requirement for such a sizeable investment doesn’t seem to measure up. For example, the Investor program in Malta allows investors to become a resident within an EU country for just €650,000, which is just over half of the UK’s £1million investment requirement.

These rumored changes to the Tier 1 Investor visa category come not too long after the announcement of changes to the similar Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa in January of last year, indicating that the Government are keen to do more to attract overseas investors to inject money into the UK economy. The findings of the MEC are set to be released later this month.