LONDON — The British government is preparing to suspend a special visa program that allows wealthy investors to fast-track their settlement in the country, part of a new drive to crack down on money laundering.
The Tier 1 visas will be suspended from midnight on Dec. 7 until the Home Office introduces tighter restrictions to tackle corruption and organized crime.
“We will not tolerate people who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the system,” Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said in a statement on Thursday.
What are Tier 1 visas?
They are not called “golden visas” for nothing. They provide a faster route for wealthy investors coming from outside the European Union and Switzerland to settle in Britain.
The program was introduced in 2008 to attract wealthy foreign nationals willing to invest large amounts of capital in Britain. Billions of pounds have poured into London over the past decade, following an influx of global elites who have benefited from the program.
It peaked in 2014, after 1,172 visas were granted.
The visa program has been especially popular among Russian oligarchs and wealthy people from China and the United Arab Emirates. More than 1,000 investment visas were granted in the 12-month period ending in September 2018.
Can you afford a golden visa?
To qualify, foreign nationals must put down a minimum of two million pounds (around $2.5 million) as an investment in Britain.
Such an investment in United Kingdom bonds, share capital or companies allows investors to apply for permanent residency within five years.
For a £5 million-pound investment, they can apply for permanent residency after three years.