UK scraps golden visas over Russian dirty money fears
Priti Patel will scrap Britain’s so-called golden visa scheme next week in a bid to halt the flow of Russian “dirty money” into the UK.
The Tier 1 investor visa gives rich foreigners who are willing to bring millions of pounds to Britain a fast-track to settlement in the UK.
The home secretary has decided to close the route because of “long-standing concerns” over abuse of the scheme by criminal groups and the super-rich from several countries, including Russia, China and Kazakhstan.
The decision comes amid increased scrutiny of Britain’s visa rules and fears that they are allowing London to become flooded with money and assets linked to President Putin.
Closing the scheme would prevent rogue investors and businessmen and women from hostile states being able to buy their way into Britain.
To qualify for the visa scheme, which was launched in 2008, applicants must invest at least £2 million in the UK in return for being allowed to live here. They are later allowed to apply for British citizenship and a passport.
The Home Office had been due to publish a review of the visa scheme, including a long-awaited investigation into 700 Russian millionaires who were granted the visa between 2008 and 2015.
Checks were significantly tightened in 2015 with applicants subsequently required to provide audits of their financial and business interests to prevent people arriving with illegally obtained funds.
Banks must then write to the Home Office stating that all due diligence has been carried out on the applicant before the visa is granted.
Patel has now decided to scrap the scheme altogether and is understood to have brought forward a decision on the visas due to increased scrutiny in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine.
The government has faced criticism over its lenient approach to Russian millionaires linked to Putin who have been allowed to invest and live in London despite Britain threatening to hit the Kremlin with the “toughest sanctions regime against Russia we have ever had” if it invades Ukraine.
A Home Office source confirmed reports in The Sun that the Tier 1 visa scheme will be closed and said an announcement is expected within the next week.
The visas were introduced by Labour in 2008 in response to the financial crisis, granting British residency in exchange for seven-figure investments. The initiative fuelled a property boom for wealthy Russians in Britain.
Investments of £2 million, £5 million or £10 million can be made in gilts, or government bonds, or in British businesses in return for permission to apply for permanent residence in five, three or two years respectively.
Applicants can then apply for citizenship, which some believe is the ultimate goal for wealthy overseas migrants.
Critics have warned that the scheme has been exploited as a tool to launder the proceeds of corruption, with fears of substantial amounts of wealth stolen from Russia and China being laundered in Britain.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We reformed the Tier 1 visa route to crack down on dirty money and we have not ruled out making further changes.
As part of our work to prevent this route from corruption we are reviewing all Tier 1 investor visas granted before these reforms were made, and will report on our findings in due course.”