Tier 1 Investor visa was terminated immediately without any transitional arrangements and prior warning. This makes it even more difficult for wealthy individuals to come and live in the UK.
Tier 1 Investor visa in the UK was specifically designed to enable overseas wealthy individuals to come and live in the UK relatively easily. More importantly this visa put you on a settlement route with an opportunity to eventually acquire British citizenship.
True, depending on the specific circumstances and goals of a wealthy individual, Tier 1 investor visa may not have been considered as the primary visa choice. However, it was always there for the wealthy and their family members if other visa opportunities to the UK were exhausted.
After Tier 1 Investor visa was abolished, this left some significant gaps in UK immigration policy:
- not all UK visas allow to settle in the UK;
- there are no suitable UK immigration routes to come and live in the UK;
- difficult to satisfy stringent requirements that apply for some UK visa categories.
Here we offer the overview of some of the significant gaps that were left in the UK immigration policy.
Not all UK visas allow to settle in the UK
Namely, some UK visas are specifically designed in order not to allow settlement in the UK. Settlement is the immigration term, which denotes the right to live permanently and indefinitely in the UK. One can usually acquire the indefinite leave to remain after 5 years of continuous residence if a specific category permits.
Some of the examples are:
- Tier 4 Student visa;
- Graduate visa;
- Tier 1 Start-up visa.
Student visa only allows one to study in the UK. One is expected to leave after the study program is completed. It is impossible to abuse the study regime in order to remain longer in the UK as one is formally not allowed to duplicate their university degrees. For instance, one will not be allowed to acquire multiple Bachelor or Master’s degrees.
Graduate visa applies to individuals who have recently graduated from a study programme in the UK. It lasts only 2 years. This is another visa, which does not allow one to settle in the UK.
It was introduced recently in order to correct historic wrongs. It was recognised that the universities in the UK offer a world class education and the economy is missing out on introducing undue restrictions on newly graduated students.
The advantage of this visa is that a graduate is able to work for any employer of their choice and the employer is not required to hold a sponsor licence in order to employ them.
Tier 1 Start-up visa is similar to Tier 1 Innovator visa. The difference is that it is intended for younger people, typically students and requires less investment commitment. It also does not allow the applicant to settle in the UK. The universities are allowed to sponsor their own students for this visa. The visa is valid only for 2 years.
There is no suitable visa route to enter the UK
There are circumstances in life that fall outside any of the UK visa categories. The best example is the underaged children studying in the UK.
Parents are allowed to enter the UK on the basis that they are travelling with their children who are enrolled in a British school. The parents can travel on this basis until their children turn 12.
Then there is a gap, which it was possible to bridge if one of the parents or both of the parents applied for Tier 1 Investor visa to be with their child while in education in the UK.
Tier 1 Investor visa as an alternative UK immigration route where the immigration requirements are not easily satisfied
Some UK immigration categories have strict requirements attached to them that are not satisfied as easily.
- Fiancée, British partner or British spouse visa (Family visa);
- Non-British parents;
- Skilled worker visa.
Fiancée, British partner or British spouse visa (Family visa) requires a British citizen, settled person or a European (EU,EEA/Swiss) national to sponsor the overseas national in order to join them in the UK.
The minimum financial threshold, which needs to be met is the annual salary of no less £18,600. All applications that do not meet this financial requirement are typically rejected. There are exceptional circumstances when this requirement does not apply. These circumstances are very limited and very specific.
Traditionally, this requirement did not apply to European nationals and their family members. However, these rules now apply to all European relationships that were formed after 31 December 2020.
There was disparity in treatment where European nationals and their family members were treated better than British relationships and their overseas family members. The Home Office has long sought to address this issue. However, prior to Brexit, Europeans, their relationships and family members were protected under the provisions of the EU law. This is no longer the case.
The European relationships that have secured pre-settled or settled status before 30 June 2021 are continued to be protected under the provisions of the EU law.
Historically, Tier 1 Investor visa helped to bridge the financial requirement gap if the party based overseas was financially stronger than the party based in the UK.
Bringing non-British parents to the UK. It is almost impossible to bring non-British parents to the UK. The requirements are very strict. Even in the most compelling circumstances, the premise is that the British children based in the UK ought to hire carers in the country of residence of their non-British parents instead of bringing them over to the UK. Therefore, the application made is hardly ever successful.
If the parents could meet the requirements under Tier 1 Investor visa, this was the more appropriate route for them to join their British children in the UK.
It is going to be interesting to observe how UK immigration rules are going to be applied to the non-British parents of European nationals. Financial dependence and dependence on healthcare requirements were waived for EU nationals who submitted their applications before 30 June 2021.
Typically, it is difficult to prove and satisfy the financial dependence and dependence of healthcare requirements as extensive evidence is required. Not all evidence is accepted or admitted. It is likely that it will become more and more difficult in years after Brexit.
Skilled worker visa. Skilled worker visa replaced the Tier 2 worker visa. The job market test is no longer required for the successful candidate to join their employer in the UK.
The advantages of Tier 1 Investor visa
Historically, if the requirements of Tier 1 Investor visas were met and satisfied. It facilitated the ease of travel and settlement in the UK as well as family reunions where it was otherwise difficult to meet the more stringent requirements or the UK immigration category simply did not exist. It was a very useful UK immigration category to come and remain in the UK.
Currently, there is certainly a wide gap left in the UK immigration policy, which is even more acute as the residence rights of EU nationals in the UK changed dramatically following Brexit.
Hopefully, the Home Office will replace Tier 1 Investor visa UK immigration category with other categories tailored to specific circumstances and the gaps left in the UK immigration policy.
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Saule Voluckyte, M.A.E.S, LL.B, FAIA
I have been working exclusively with UHNWI in Mayfair, London since January 2008. I built specialist knowledge and expertise required to serve ultra high net worth individuals investing, operating and relocating to the UK or Switzerland.
Within the industry, I am the single adviser who is able to traverse the different areas of expertise and bring a comprehensive approach across: global structuring, UK immigration, international taxation and FOREX to develop their global wealth strategy, while they build, grow and expand their wealth worldwide.
Previous experience as one of the senior advisors for the government, made me a go-to person when delicate and uncomfortable scenarios involving heads of state need to be handled with care and preserve privacy.