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Top 10 questions about UK Investor visa

PUBLISHED: 28 December 2020
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Citizenship guide
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Tier 1 Investor is indeed the easiest way for wealthy foreign nationals to move to the United Kingdom.

As this visa route involves a significant financial investment, investors would normally be asking a lot of questions about how to get this visa, how to extend it, how to get permanent residence in the UK (also called ILR or settlement) and later apply for naturalisation and British passport. Imperial & Legal advisers offer you answers to top 10 frequently asked questions about British citizenship by investment.

1. What benefits are offered to foreign investors in the UK?

Applicants for a Tier 1 Investor visa are required to make a significant contribution to the local economy. To make this investment mutually beneficial, the UK government offers them a lot of benefits in return.

  • You can bring a family to the UK including a spouse and children under 18.
  • To apply for a Tier 1 Investor visa, you don’t need to speak English or know anything about the country. However, if you plan to apply for an indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the future, you will have to integrate into the society and learn the language.
  • You and your family members can do in the UK whatever your heart desires: work, study, do business or enjoy high living standards in a safe and modern European country.
  • You do not part with your money for good. Moreover, it is under your control while you are in the UK on a visa and you can even change the investment portfolio. If done correctly, you will not only get your capital back, but also increase it because Great Britain is one of the top investment destinations in the world.
  • If you apply for an investor visa to move to the UK, in half a year you will be able to use tax laws in your favour for tax optimisation.

2. Where to invest to get a Tier 1 Investor visa to the UK?

Unfortunately, it is not possible any more to invest in government bonds or real estate in the United Kingdom to apply for an investor visa. The rules have changed.

It is possible, however, to invest in UK-registered companies unless they are involved in real estate construction, management and sale. By limiting investment options, the UK government is trying to encourage investments into a real sector of economy.

On the one hand, new rules increase investment risks. On the other hand, no more headache related to property management and you can make real profit. To minimise risks, prior to making an investment, talk to experts that could recommend you a best solution.

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3. How much money do I need to invest to get a UK investor visa?

The minimum amount you must invest is £2,000,000. However, if you plan to stay in the UK and are prepared to invest more into UK companies, you can become part of British society significantly faster.

A table below shows when you can apply for settlement and citizenship in the UK based on how much money you have invested.

Investment amount ILR application Application for British citizenship
£2,000,000 After 5 years After 6 years
£5,000,000 After 3 years After 5 years
£10,000,000 After 2 years After 5 years

The more money you invest in shares of trading UK companies, the faster you can settle in Great Britain. A settled person has almost the same rights as a British national. Moreover, once you obtain ILR, you can get your money back.

To sum it up, you must hold your investment for at least 2 to 5 years in order to settle and stay in Great Britain. The holding period depends directly on how much you have invested.

4. Are there any requirements to investment funds?

As the United Kingdom has never positioned itself as an offshore or tax haven, applicants for a Tier 1 Investor visa must demonstrate a legal source of money to be invested in UK economy.

If for any reason you cannot demonstrate where you have got that money from, it must be held on your account for at least 2 years before the date of application.

5. What are criteria that I must meet to apply for an investor visa?

Firstly, you must prove that you have free access to the funds you plan to invest and you can transfer them to an investment account in a UK bank any time.

It is important to remember that the funds do not have to belong to you alone, they can be also held by your second half (partner or spouse). In this case, all you need to do is to provide evidence to the Home Office that you have access to the money and are free to do what you want with it.

Secondly, though there are not many requirements to applicants for an investor visa, UK authorities would not let anyone into their country with criminal records or infectious deceases.

Therefore, you must provide a criminal record certificate for the last 10 years and test negative for a tuberculosis test.

Furthermore, for your Tier 1 investor visa application, you must obtain and submit a letter from a UK financial institution confirming that you have opened an investment account with them. Bank or another credit organisation officials conduct their own background checks on you and the source of your funds.

If you are thinking about moving to the UK, you might find useful our article on how to prepare for relocation to Great Britain, what things to factor in and what issues to address.

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6. How long before I get my Tier 1 investor visa?

To speed up obtaining an investor visa to the UK, get in touch with qualified immigration lawyers from the very start. This will help you to avoid unwanted mistakes and save time and money.

It normally takes 1 to 2 weeks to prepare all necessary documents. Once your application is submitted, you must attend a visa centre in person. The Home Office allows up to 8 weeks to process your application. If you want to fast-track it, you can pay an extra fee and get a decision in 5 working days.

After your Tier 1 investor visa is granted, you will have up to 90 days to enter the country and another 90 days after arrival to transfer money to your investment account and buy shares or bonds of UK companies.

7. How long will my investor visa be valid for?

If you are applying for an investor visa outside the UK, in the country of your residence, it will be valid for 3 years and four months. If you switch to the investor category within the UK, your investor visa will be granted for 3 years.

Before your current visa expires, you can either extend it for another 2 years or apply for settlement, provided you have invested enough money to qualify for it.

8. How to get an indefinite leave to remain in the UK?

Tier 1 investors do not have to live in the country all the time. However, if you plan to stay in the UK for good, you must not be absent for long. In the period before applying for ILR, you must not leave the country for more than 180 days in any 12-month period.

Apart from this continuous residence requirement, you must comply with additional requirements to apply for settlement:

  • You must not withdraw the money you have invested in UK economy. If you decide to restructure your investment portfolio, make sure its total amount does not go lower than the required amount, especially if you have invested much more than £2 million to be able to settle faster.
  • You must prove you speak good English by passing a language test to Level B1 of European classification. You must also pass a Life in the UK test consisting of 24 questions that you can prepare for in advance.

If you apply with a family, all adults dependants must also pass an English and Life in the UK tests to evidence their language skills and integration in British society.

How much you have invested will determine how fast you will be able to settle in the UK – in 2, 3 or 5 years of living on the British Isles. We have shown in the table above how the more money you invest, the faster you can obtain ILR.

As settled status gives almost the same rights as British citizenship, it is common to stop at this stage and stay in the UK without applying for a UK passport. However, if you decide to naturalise and become a British national, you and your family can do it after a certain number of years based on how much you have invested. It would normally be 1 to 3 years after ILR. More details are in the next question.

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9. How long before a Tier 1 Investor can apply for British citizenship?

Though it does depend on how much you have invested, but not as much as in case with ILR. You won’t be able to significantly speed it up.

  • If you invest at least £5 million, you can apply to naturalise in the UK after 5 years of continuously living in the country.
  • If you can only invest £2 million or a bit more, you will only be able to submit your citizenship application in 6 years of arriving in the UK and 1 year after getting settled status.

To naturalise, you must also speak good English and have clean criminal record. Life in the UK test is also mandatory. These two tests apply to all adult dependants, including children who turned 18 while living in the UK on a dependant visa.

Another thing to remember, a number of days of absence from the UK for naturalisation applications is different for that of ILR applications: in the 5-year period before applying for British citizenship, you must not leave the country for more than 450 days in total, and not more than 90 days in the 12 months prior to submission. Therefore, these things must be kept in mind from the very beginning if your goal is to get a UK passport.

10. Do I need legal support in the UK?

You do not need help from qualified experts in the UK if you know the following:

  1. How to make an initial application for a Tier 1 Investor visa to the UK.
  2. How to open an investment account.
  3. Where to invest your money.
  4. How to relocate to the UK with a whole family.
  5. How to extend your investor visa, apply for ILR and UK passport.

If, however, you are not sure about at least one of the points above, qualified advisers at Imperial & Legal can always provide a full consultation on all matters related to your relocation to the UK and help you at every stage of the process from obtaining a UK investor visa to organising relocation to tax planning and business support.

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