Calls for higher minimum investment to qualify for tier 1 (investor) visas

The number of applicants for Tier 1 (investor) category visas rose to a record high in the year ending on 30th June 2012. The UK Border Agency received over 400 applications during this period. This figure compares with fewer than 200 applicants in 2009. Critics say that the minimum investment should be increased.

High net worth individuals can apply to the UK Border Agency for a Tier 1 (investor) visa if they have £1,000,000 to invest in approved UK investments and meet various other criteria. They may still be refused if they have a poor immigration history. Critics complain that the Tier 1 (investor) category amounts to selling UK residency, and is unfair because it allows the wealthy to 'jump the queue'. Conversely, proponents of the scheme say that it encourages investment in UK business and creates jobs.

When it came to power in 2010, the government announced that it would make changes to the scheme in order to encourage further inward investment.

An unnamed banker told The Daily Telegraph, a London newspaper, last week, 'The £1m threshold was put in place over 20 years ago and is not the obstacle it once was. We have seen a huge increase in demand from Russians, Chinese, and people from the Middle East wanting to move to London and it is clear that, given the unlimited demand, the time may have come to charge more for entry.'

Mike Pihlens of Invest UK said that many wealthy individuals from countries experiencing political uncertainty 'want to take out a second option on where they and their children can live.'

There are two categories of Tier 1 visa. Tier 1 (investor) visas and Tier 1 (entrepreneur) visas. Tier 1 entrepreneur visas are granted to non-European Economic Area nationals who want to invest in the UK by setting up or taking over, and being actively involved in the running of, a business or businesses here.

If the government does change the rules to increase the threshold for the Tier 1 (investor) visa, it may result in more applications being made for the Tier 1 (entrepreneur) visa. Applicants for this visa need to start or take over an existing business and invest £200,000. However, to qualify for a Tier 1 (entrepreneur) visa you need to be actively involved in the running of the business.

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