Anti-corruption charity Spotlight on Corruption has published a new report detailing the countries that have thus far benefitted the most from the UK Investor Visa, otherwise known as the ‘golden visa’.
In the period from 2008-2020, thousands of millionaires were granted a UK Investor Visa.
According to the report, Chinese nationals have been awarded the most Investor Visas, topping the list with 4,106. Second is Russia with 2,526, followed by Hong Kong (692), the United States (685), Pakistan (283), Kazakhstan (278) and India (254).
The three remaining countries on the list are Saudi Arabia (223), Turkey (221) and Egypt (206). Holders of the UK Investor Visa are awarded automatic residency rights.
The publishing of the report coincides with a government review of the visa, which has been the subject of several allegations including money laundering, fraud and corruption. The Times has reported that in light of potential risks to national security, the route is now ‘under review’.
June 2008 – April 2015 reportedly saw a minimum of 6,312 UK investor visas issued, a figure that represents almost half of the total number of the visa type approved by the Home Office. Due to a lack of scrutiny over investors’ source of funds during the period in question, there are concerns over the integrity of some of those welcomed into the country.
Introduced in 2008 by a Labour government with the aim of counteracting the financial crisis, the visa is awarded to those willing to invest seven-figure sums in the UK. It is perceived as a key catalyst for the property boom for wealthy Russians in the UK.
Faced with widespread concerns that it was being exploited, then Prime Minister Theresa May ordered a review into the scheme in 2008.
Susan Hawley, executive director of Spotlight on Corruption, siad:
“The UK’s golden visa regime continues to pose a significant corruption, money laundering and national security risk to the UK.
It is alarming and deeply unfair that the government is becoming draconian in other parts of its immigration policy but has yet to close major loopholes that allow dirty money to come to the UK. The government must commission an independent review of whether the regime provides any real benefit to the UK.”
Spotlight on Corruption, which works to challenge corruption in the UK and wherever the UK has influence overseas, has called on the government to publish its investigation into the visa for the 2008-2015 period.
The report- entitled ‘Red Carpet for Dirty Money’- provides detailed insight into the action taken on specific cases, such as visa holders referred to law enforcement, revoked visas, and incidents where denial of UK citizenship has occurred.
Reformed visa route
In response, the Home Office has asserted that the visa route has been reformed in recent years in an attempt to tackle ‘dirty money’. It has also stated that its findings will be published in ‘due course’.
Spotlight on Corruption said:
“Glaring loopholes remain, including that applicants using ‘gifted’ funds to apply for a golden visa still face no due diligence, and the Home Office remains over-reliant on financial institutions for due diligence on wealth invested.
However, the organisation added that despite reforms, the visa route is still a hotbed for money laundering offences.”
Spotlight on Corruption said:
“Glaring loopholes remain, including that applicants using ‘gifted’ funds to apply for a golden visa still face no due diligence, and the Home Office remains over-reliant on financial institutions for due diligence on wealth invested.”
A Home Office spokesperson had this to say:
“We reformed the Tier 1 visa route in 2015 and in 2019 to crack down on dirty money and we have not ruled out making further changes, if necessary.
These changes include requiring banks to do extra due diligence checks prior to opening accounts and requiring applicants to provide evidence of the source of their funds. As part of our work to prevent this route from corruption we are reviewing all Tier 1 investor visas granted before these reforms were made and will report on our findings in due course.”
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Thousands of millionaires were approved for a UK Tier 1 Investor Visa between 2008 and 2020. [Image: Unsplash]
Susan Hawley, executive director of Spotlight on Corruption, has called on the government to commission an independent review into whether the visa brings any real benefit to the UK. [Image: Spotlight on Corruption]
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