The number of millionaires and billionaires applying to move to the UK as part of a special visa programme aimed at attracting rich immigrants rose 46 per cent last year.
In the 12 months to 30 March, 405 high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals applied to come to the UK on a Tier 1 investor visa. Applicants for the visa, which allows people to stay in the country for three years, must have at least £2m to invest in the UK.
Investor visas are often seen as a fast-track process for wealthy foreign nationals to acquire British citizenship.
Of the total applications, 123 came from China, up from 98 the year before, with 52 coming from Russia, up from 34, and 24 from Turkey, compared with 13 in the preceding 12 months.
Law firm Collyer Bristow said recent political developments in Saudi Arabia, China and Turkey, as well as Russia’s difficult relations with the West, have unnerved some wealthy individuals from those countries, encouraging them to apply for residency in the UK.
Meanwhile, the US is becoming less attractive as a destination for the ultra-wealthy as Donald Trump’s administration is keen to get rid of, or at least make changes to, the US’s Tier 1 equivalent, the EB-5 investor programme.
“Despite Brexit uncertainty, the UK is attractive to many HNWs as a place to live and invest in,” said James Badcock, partner at Collyer Bristow.
“For many overseas investors the UK offers an international platform from which to grow their investments or businesses on an international stage. In addition to the financial and investment opportunities, the strong cultural appeal of the UK and London as well as its private education system attracts many overseas high net worths.”
“With political uncertainty surrounding investor visas in the US, a growing number of HNWs are looking to move to and invest in the UK. However, some may have concerns that the government could tighten visa rules after the formal Brexit date in March 2019 and may be looking to enter before then.”
One effect that Brexit has had on the climate for super-rich immigrants is increased delays in renewing or extending their visas.
Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich was left unable to enter Britain in May after problems renewing his Tier 1 visa.
After the oligarch’s situation was revealed, the government confirmed it was re-examining the visas.
Last month, lawyers warned that Brexit-related delays to providing documents for immigrant investors could hurt the UK financially.
“It’s entirely possible that our economy will suffer as a result of this. Less foreign investment into the UK would result in reduced inward investment and as a consequence impact the UK’s ability to compete as a major player in the world economy,” said Mandeep Khroud, immigration expert and senior associate at Irwin Mitchell.
“Visa renewals can be extremely complicated if there are multiple assets and corporate structures involved, so it’s important to get the application correct from the start. With Brexit making life even more difficult for them, foreign investors may just decide not to bother in the future.”