Bordering on the ridiculous

The UK wants to attract wealthy migrants, but its new policies are more likely to act as a deterrent

Stephen Bostock

The past couple of years have seen significant restrictions in the laws governing the flow of migration into the UK. The Government has an electoral mandate to cut net migration, leading to this flurry of activity within the UK Border Agency.

Since the Coalition took power in 2010 we have seen the abolition of the highly skilled Tier 1 (General) visa and also the popular Tier 1 (Post Study Worker) visa, which allowed many students who had graduated in the UK the opportunity to gain post-graduate work experience here for two years.

The Government has, however, remained committed to attracting wealthier migrants to the UK. Such migrants often create jobs here and significantly help to support UK plc. The Tier 1 (Investor) and (Entrepreneur) visas have been designed specifically to facilitate investment in UK business and government bonds ranging from £50,000 to £10m per application. However, it seems the Government’s target to significantly reduce migration is undermining the appeal of these investment based visas.

One example was the abolition of the Domestic Worker visa earlier this year. This visa allowed domestic workers to follow their employers to the UK. Such workers have often been employed by the same family for years and become an essential part of the household. We have found that many clients who wish to come to the UK under the Tier 1 (Investor) visa and potentially invest up to £10m here have been deterred by the fact that their children’s nanny cannot travel with them. If the UK truly wants to encourage high net worth migration here then immigration policy needs to reflect this.

Another example is a rule change that came into force earlier this year which means the spouse of a Tier 1 (Investor) who has invested £10m into the UK has to wait three years longer than their spouse to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). Policymakers need to consider the message this change sends to high net worth individuals considering making such a large investment in the UK for not just themselves but their whole family.

Policymakers have also failed to address an anomaly that exists between Tier 1 (Investors) applying for ILR and naturalisation as a British citizen. The ILR rules allow such applicants to spend up to six months outside of the UK each qualifying year while the naturalisation rules stipulate that no more than three months should be spent outside of the UK each qualifying year. These conflicting residency requirements cause confusion and lessen the appeal of investment visas.

Government immigration initiatives that attract the global business and entrepreneurial elite are to be encouraged, but lack of joined-up policymaking means there is a real risk of throwing the champagne out with the cork.