A right of residence in the UK can be purchased with a six-figure investment. Until a few years ago, the amount required was £1m. While new investment visas can no longer be obtained at that price — the minimum investment has doubled — existing holders of a Tier 1 (Investor) visa on the basis of a £1 million investment can still extend that visa, or convert it into indefinite leave to remain (ILR).
But not forever. The clock is ticking for these “£1m investors”, who will need to either apply by a certain deadline or increase/change their investment to keep their right to reside in the UK.
The government increased the minimum investment threshold under the Tier 1 (Investor) scheme from £1 million to £2 million back in November 2014.
Existing Tier 1 (Investor) visa holders did not need to increase the level of their investment. They were able to apply for ILR and as the qualifying period is five years, most £1m investors will have qualified by now. But not all.
There are still those with limited leave, who have had to keep on extending their visa, on the basis of a £1m investment. Usually the reason they have not qualified for ILR by now is because:
- they have had excessive absences from the UK in the qualifying period for ILR (more than 180 days per year, or, since January 2018, 180 days in any 12-month period); and/or
- their English is not at an acceptable level; and/or
- they are under 65 and are unable to pass the Life in the UK test (although anyone smart enough to amass a fortune should be able to pass the test so this is not usually as problematic as the first two points).
During the course of this year — most recently in the October 2019 statement of changes which Nath covered — the Home Office has made a number of further changes to the route.
The effect of all the recent changes means that many investors who entered the route before 29 March 2019 will not be able to secure further leave or ILR beyond a certain date, unless they make changes to their investment portfolio and/or increase the level of their qualifying investment. The steps needed differ depending on when an applicant entered the route and the type of investments they have made.
An investor who needs to extend their stay relying on a £1m investment will need to file their application before 6 April 2020.
To extend after that date, they would have to increase their investment to at least £2m.
An investor relying on £1m in an ILR application will need to file that application before 6 April 2022.
If they can’t file it by then because they don’t meet the requirements, they will need to increase the investment to at least £2m before applying.
Importantly, increasing the investment is not enough. They will only be able to qualify for ILR when they have also clocked up the relevant qualifying period starting from the date they increased their investment: five years if £2m, three years if £5m, two years if £10m). Time already spent under the route just won’t count anymore.
These changes mean that £1m investors need to map out their future plans carefully.
Bond… Government Bond
Those whose investments include government bonds (or gilts as they are also known) face another potential complication. As part of the general tightening up of the route, government bonds were removed as a qualifying investment for a new Tier 1 (Investor) visa from March 2019.
In order to succeed, extension applications where the investment still includes government bonds must be made before 6 April 2023. ILR applications relying on government bonds must be made before 6 April 2025.
This doesn’t just refer to £1m investors, but to anyone who entered the route before 29 March 2019.
Applications filed after the above dates that rely on government bonds held after those dates will be refused. For the application to be successful, the investment must be moved out of government bonds and into share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies (regarded generally as a higher risk form of investment).
The Home Office guidance for Tier 1 Investors (last updated on 1 October 2019) contains this nifty chart which demonstrates how complicated they’ve made things for investors intending to apply for ILR.
Anyone still relying on investments under the old £1m rules, and/or who is relying on government bonds, should map out now the steps they’ll need to take in order to qualify for ILR (including extending their stay where needed).
This is likely to involve a number of changes such as limiting absences, improving English, increasing investment funds and/or changing the type of investment.