UK's top immigration advisor questions value of Tier 1 Investor visa

Sir David Metcalfe, the head of the UK's Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) gave evidence to the House of Commons' Home Affairs Committee last week. He told the Committee that no one he asked knew why the UK's Tier 1 (Investor) visa had been established.

Sir David has been asked by the government to review the Tier 1 (Investor) visa stream. He was summoned to give evidence to the Committee on 10th December 2013 and was asked by Liberal Democrat MP Dr Julian Huppert to explain his findings about the Investor visa.

Sir David said 'nobody can tell us why we have the investors route'. He continued 'interestingly, when you talk to a lot of the stakeholders, they think it is self-evidently a good thing. It is not self-evidently a good thing. It may be a good thing, but it is not self-evidently a good thing'.

Why do we have this visa?

Sir David said 'What we have done is to quiz people about why they think we have this [investor visa]. Of course, you have to remember it is posting a bond. It is not a gift. Most of the people buy gilts, so they are buying gilts. Sometimes they borrow the money and then they keep the gilts for five years.

'They get their indefinite leave to remain, and then they sell them. We do not need their money. We are selling £300 million of gilts every day to fund the deficit, so we do not need their money for that. Therefore, you start asking what is the purpose of this route'.

Answering his own question, Sir David postulated that the real intention was that these wealthy people might, while in the UK, engage in entrepreneurial activity.

Only 10 - 20% are entrepreneurs

He said 'If there are 500 investors in the last figures, say that 50 or 100 of those really do do proper entrepreneurial activity; that, I think, is where the benefit for Britain is.

Sir David said that the UK should 'think a little bit more creatively instead of just [requiring investors to] buy gilts'. He said that Malta was already considering selling citizenship. He said that it might be that the UK should do the same.

He said 'There surely are better ways that we can get people investing in Britain; I repeat it is only a loan, it is not a gift-including in venture capital or so-called angel investment funds. We have talked to the GLC about-I won't call it a Boris bond, but an infrastructure bond, for example. In our report we will be setting out some plausible alternatives. Two of my LSE colleagues suggested that maybe we should…do some auctioning'.

UK 'selling' visas cheaply

Sir David went on to say that the UK was currently 'selling' visas rather cheaply. He said that the UK should not rule out selling citizenship and said that, if it did, maybe it 'should be letting people in if they endow Cambridge, LSE, with £10 million'.

Sir David said that the MAC report on the subject would be coming out in February 2014.

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