05 July 2014

British Passports - For Sale - If you have £1 million or more.

This has been a matter of concern for me and most other right thinking British expatriates for a long time.
If you are Russian and you have £1 million or more you can buy your way into the UK and obtain a British Passport very quickly.

Very unfair for expat British passport holders who wish to return to the UK and are married to a non-EU citizen. More on that later.

A British Tier 1 (Investor) visa allows wealthy foreigners to fly into London if they have £1 million or more of their own money. They need to invest £750,000 of this into British government bonds, share capital of a company or even just loan capital in an active British company. In return they will obtain residency for their dependent family members also and retain control of their money. If the investment remains in the UK the ‘investor’ can then obtain permanent residency and after 5 years a British passport. Moreover, for those who can invest £5m or even £10m the waiting time for permanent residency and a British nationality is reduced to 3 years and then 1 year for the really big investor.

Some critics of the evil empire (oh sorry I meant Russia), claim that the vast amount of Russian money in London is having an impact on decision making by the British government regarding the introduction of sanctions against Russia in response to the attacks on Ukraine and the invasion of Crimea. But to be fair I recently read an analysis which showed Russian investors to be only around 1% of activity in the ‘City of London’. But I think we all know there are a lot of rich Russians now living permanently in the UK and mainly in London.

One of the greatest benefits from obtaining an investor visa is that there are no English language requirements. No tests are required. So provided you have £1m plus you can get into the country and be awarded a residents permit without uttering a word of English.

The unfairness of this system is mind boggling. A foreigner can enter the UK with his/her family without any restrictions if they have a £1m + investor visa. But a British citizen who has been living abroad for many years and married to a ‘Non-EU Citizen’, will face many barriers when he/she is seeking to enter the UK with his spouse for permanent settlement. British citizens must be able to show a minimum income of £18600 per annum from a job based in the UK or show significant savings to ensure their spouse will not be a burden of the state. The amount increases if they have dependent children. Moreover this income level must be shown to have been achieved for at least six months before the spouse is allowed to join the British citizen in the UK. What the UK government will also fail to take into account is any income generated within the EU or rest of the world.  So take for example the case of Steven and Sarah* who have been living in the UAE for the past 8 years. Steven is a British citizen and Sarah is a Canadian passport holder. They have built up a successful business in Dubai which produces an annual personal income to them of over $50,000 (£29500) They can still own and control the business even when they live back in the UK, but the current rules say they cannot enter the UK. Income must be earned in the UK only. )* names have been changed)

There is a great conflict between British law and EU law and both laws are not good for the British citizen who wishes to live in the UK with his Non-EU spouse. However, if the same British passport holder was a citizen of another EU country then life gets much easier.  Any citizen and his/her family from an EU country can enter the UK to find work or stay permanently without any questions from the UK Immigration Authorities. Is it any wonder that many British passport holders seeking to return to the UK are obtaining citizenship from other EU countries first.   Ireland is one friendly EU country who helps to do this.

Take another example. Peter and Tanya (not their real names). Peter is British and has lived in Ukraine for over 10 years. He married Tanya a Ukraine citizen in 2006. Ukraine is a non-EU country.  They live in Kyiv but have decided to relocate to the north of England. Peter does not have any job or business in the UK at present but he intends to set up his own business on return. Until he can show his income is at least £18600 per year, Tanya will not be allowed to join him in the UK. However let’s say for example that Tanya was married to a man from Poland, an EU country, they would both be able to enter the UK without any questions.

Let’s face it we all know that the British government introduced these new restrictions to reduce the high number of so called British citizens from bringing their wives/husbands and children into the UK from Asian countries and being a drain on state benefits, schools, hospitals etc. (Note that I can be non PC.) J   But the system has affected the wrong people as usual.

The British are not the only ones to offer investor visas. Two faced British people are quick to criticise other countries like Bulgaria, Spain, Malta, Cyprus and Latvia for introducing investor visa systems. These are all EU countries and a passport from one of these countries entitles the holder to go and reside in ANY EU country including the United Kingdom.

There are far too many Russians living in London and the rest of the UK already via the investor visa route. So my advice is, why not jump on the band wagon if you have £1m or more and go to live in the UK. If the British government are low enough to grant so many visas to Russians they will do it for anyone.

Personally I would recommend Cyprus as the best country for an investor visa leading to citizenship. Please contact me should you need further details. J

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