London lawyers who help the global super-rich apply for “golden visas” to enter the UK have called on the government to reconsider its decision to abolish the Tier 1 investor visa scheme, warning that it would be “enormously damaging” to the economy.
Kyra Motley, a partner at the law firm Boodle Hatfield, said the UK was jeopardising billions of pounds in overseas investment “because of a popular myth that foreign money is dirty money”.
“On a conservative calculation, the investor visa scheme has brought in over £17bn of investment into the UK over the last decade,” she said. “That is a substantial success.”
The home secretary, Priti Patel, announced the immediate closure of the scheme last week to stop “corrupt elites who threaten our national security and push dirty money around our cities”.
More than 12,000 golden visas have been granted since the scheme was launched in 2008, including more than 2,500 to Russians. The programme allowed people with at least £2m in investment funds and a UK bank account to apply for residency rights, along with their family. The speed with which applicants were allowed to get indefinite leave to remain was hastened by how much money they planned to invest in the UK: £2m took five years, while £10m shortened the wait to just two.
Chetal Patel, a partner at law firm Bates Wells, said scrapping the investor visa because of increased tensions over Russia’s threat to Ukraine would be “unfair” to other rich people wishing to come to the UK.
“A blanket ban would be cutting off one’s nose to spite their face.
“Since the introduction of golden visas in 2008, the UK has benefited from billions of pounds of investment. It would be enormously damaging to the UK economy if this was to be cut off.”
After the 2018 Salisbury poisonings of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, a former Russian military officer and his daughter, the government launched a review into the investors awarded visas from 2008-15. The review has yet to be published.
The scheme remained open, despite parliament’s joint intelligence and security committee saying in 2020 that it was “welcoming oligarchs with open arms”.