According to the Telegraph, the UK’s Minister of State for Security, Tom Tugendhat, has ordered a review of citizenship by investment programs that provide foreign investors with visa-free access to the UK.
The article states that Tugendhat’s order encompasses CIPs in “dozens of countries in the Caribbean, Pacific, and Central America.” The paper also mentions that these programs allow wealthy foreigners to obtain citizenship for “as little as £60,000″. It also explains that the reasoning behind Tugendhat’s review is to ensure that no suspected criminals or “sanction-busting Russians” are exploiting any of these programs to enter the UK without the need for a visa.
Tugendhat addressed the issue at Global Financial Integrity Conference, where he pointed out that CIPs “became popular over the last 20 or 30 years, and many different jurisdictions have introduced them in various different ways.” Referring to the UK, he said, “we found it so open to abuse that we had to stop it. So we’ve closed down tier-one visas. And we’re going through the process of making sure that none of those loopholes are left within our existing visa routine.”
Tugendhat then confirmed his aim to probe foreign programs, employing terms familiar to those who have followed the European Commission’s years-long campaign against investment migration programs:
“Sadly, that means that we’ve got to look at some other jurisdictions because there are some places that have visa waivers with the UK who are effectively offering this loophole. We simply cannot have visa waivers with backdoor economies; it just doesn’t work.”
The Minister of Security indicated Dominica’s CIP was among the programs under review, commenting that “whenever I fly, you’ll see in in-flight magazines various different legal entities offering various different citizenship by investment offers. The island of Dominica was one of the ones that appeared in the in-flight magazine, and all I can say is that the visa regime is being looked at.”
Tugendhat did not comment on which other CIPs were on his radar or whether a program’s being selected for review was contingent on its mention in in-flight magazines. However, the Telegraph’s IM-critical article did list Antigua & Barbuda, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, and Vanuatu as other programs at risk.
According to the Telegraph, these countries, among others, could face diplomatic pressure to tighten checks on potential investors or – more drastically – could lose their visa waiver agreement with the UK.
On prior occasions, the UK Minister of Security has made no bones about his dislike of the nation’s Tier-1 Investor Visa. His remarks this week highlight his continuous efforts to take measures against anything RCBI. Whether there is an official review sanctioned by the UK Government or if Tugendhat is conducting his own review of the matter to present any preliminary proposals regarding the issue remains unclear.
Much like the EU, the UK is in the midst of setting up its own Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) system, which would ensure that anyone entering the UK, with or without a visa, would meet the nation’s security clearance requirement. Tugendhat’s proposed drastic diplomatic measures with some of the UK’s Commonwealth allies should therefore be superfluous, presuming the Minister’s actions are motivated by his stated aims.