'Golden visas' weighing heavily on the Home Office: continued confusion over the Tier 1 schemes


What with all the Brexit concerns regarding EEA nationals, you could almost forgive the Home Office for its collective mind being elsewhere.


However, in making its case for a strong post-Brexit global Britain, creating confusion about one of the visa categories targeting High-Net Worth individuals is not a recommended strategy.

After much panic from immigration law professionals and other advisors to HNWIs, it turns out the Tier 1 (Investor) scheme is not actually suspended. It appears that the press release last week announcing the scheme's suspension was a little premature. A new statement made by Caroline Nokes, the Minister of State for Immigration, on 6 December confirms that the Tier 1 (Investor) route will be reformed, but not stating how or why. We expect that the reasoning we set out in our previous post on this still stands, but correspondence between the Home Office and the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association confirms that the route is still live, and there is no mention of suspension in the ministerial statement.

However, what has emerged is further changes to the other core Tier 1 visa route, that for Entrepreneurs. This category requires a minimum investment into a UK company and the being applicant registered as the UK company's director (or as self-employed) within 6 months of being granted leave. The statement notes that the category will be known as the Tier 1 (Innovator) route, with an emphasis on "more experienced business people". Very little else has been revealed, and Ms Nokes has promised a Statement of Intent will be published to set out the details of how these new routes will work. In other words, change is coming but watch this space.

Another new visa route, confirmed recently but originally announced in June, is the new Start-Up visa. It was initially not clear whether this was to replace the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa or an expansion to it, but the statement confirms that it will be an expansion.

So far the changes announced seem to be more about PR-friendly patches rather than reforming and improving the system. And with visa for doctors and nurses coming out from the Tier 2 visa limits and Sajid Javid suggesting that low-skilled worker visas could be permitted for the hospitality and food industries, it does make one wonder whether there is a coherent immigration policy at all.

Given the continued pushing back of the Immigration White Paper, it is hard to believe there is.

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The government has not suspended its controversial “golden visa” programme for wealthy foreign investors, despite a Home Office announcement last week stating that it had. “The Tier 1 Investor visa is not currently suspended, however we remain committed to reforming the route,” a spokesperson for the department said on Tuesday. “A further announcement will be made in due course.” The embarrassing climbdown for the Home Office comes just days after it said “sweeping reforms” would be conducted as part of efforts to prevent the visas being used for money laundering. It is now unclear what form those changes will take or when they might be implemented.