The UK is suspending its investor visas, as a measure to tackle money laundering and organised crime. In a statement released by the Home Office, the government said they require applicants to provide audits of their financial and business interests and exclude government bonds as a qualifying investment. The program will be suspended from midnight on Friday, and will lift once the changes, that are due next year, have been put in place. The suspension comes in the aftermath of the souring of relations between Russia and UK.
Tier 1 investor visas were introduced in 2008 to encourage rich people from outside the EU to invest in the UK. One could invest £2m in the country for a visa and indefinite leave to remain after five years. Concerns were however raised recently with claims being made that the scheme is being used to launder money. Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said, “We will not tolerate people who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the system. That is why I am bringing forward these new measures which will make sure that only genuine investors, who intend to support UK businesses, can benefit from our immigration system.”
Prime Minister Theresa May had earlier said this year that the government was reviewing the program after Labour Party lawmaker Yvette Cooper questioned the origin of money from 700 Russians who have been granted the visas. The number of applicants fell sharply in 2015 after the government introduced new anti-money laundering due diligence checks and doubled the minimum investment for the permit to £2 million ($2.6 million).
From 2019, independent regulated auditors will assess applicants' financial and business interests and check if they have had control of the funds for at least two years. The Home Office said there will be a provision in the future for pooled investments, supported by the government, to back projects with a “clear economic benefit to the UK” such as a supporting small and medium-sized businesses.