Home Office officials have firmly slammed the door on wealthy overseas investors despite lobbying by concerned immigration lawyers and advocates.
In a letter sent to the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA), the Home Office has indicated there is no chance of a temporary amnesty for investor visa applicants. The letter indicated the Home Office believed there was “little economic benefit to the UK” in allowing wealthy individuals to apply for Investor visas and that although it is planning to make alternative provisions for investment-related migration, it is not the department’s purpose to “ensure the new provisions will accommodate would-be Tier 1 (Investor) applicants.”
The statement was a response to scathing criticism of Priti Patel’s handling of the immediate and sudden closure of the visa route without notice last month.
The ILPA accused the Home Secretary of “undermining democratic procedures of accountability and any sense of legal certainty, stability, and predictability”. The organisation, which consists of lawyers, barristers, and immigration advocates, described how members were blindsided by the decision. It received no advanced notice and there was no formal public consultation regarding the changes. Normally the procedure required a 21-day notice period.
The ILPA subsequently called on Patel to provide a 21-day grace period for applications to be submitted and processed “to avoid any unfairness to applicants who were close to submission at the time of the route’s closure.” It also wanted assurances that cases currently under consideration would be assessed fairly and that future substantive changes follow protocol and be announced at least 21 days before taking effect.
A Home Office letter sent to the ILPA on March 7th acknowledged that there was no notice given but said officials feared any grace period would have given rise to a “closing down sale effect”, which would have been exploited by “those most motivated to abuse the route”, which was closed to try and stem the flow of funds of questionable origin into the UK from abroad, particularly from Russia.
The Home Office has refused the ILPA’s request for an amnesty and says that the fact that there have been no motions to object to the cancellation proves that the decision has cross-party support.
“In the light of events following closure of the route, and the Government’s action to impose sanctions against Russia, there is little reason to conclude that Parliament judges the Home Office’s approach to closure of the route to have been precipitate and disproportionate,” the letter states. It does, however, concede that any applications that were made prior to the closure of the route on February 17th, will be considered under the rules in place at that time.
ILPA member Yash Dubal, Director of A Y & J Solicitors said: “The days where anyone with a spare £2m to spend could buy their way into the UK are now well and truly over. This will undoubtedly help stem the tide of illicit funds coming into the UK, but there were also many genuine investors who used the route.”
Any future investment-related migration will now be considered under the terms of the new Innovator visa route, due to be implemented this autumn. This new visa targets those with “skills and experience relevant to investment in the innovative business ecosystem”. Applicants will be subject to an independent assessment by qualified endorsing bodies.
Mr Dubal explained that a middle ground option may have had benefits.
He continued: “The rules relating to the Innovator route are more limiting than the Investor route. Many genuine applicants will no longer qualify on the grounds that the businesses they intend to invest in will not be classified as innovative – even though they could still benefit the UK economically. Identifying what makes something innovative could become quite arbitrary. There is an argument for a process whereby applicants could still invest in the UK by undergoing more stringent security checks and being endorsed by independent bodies, even if their business investment is not classed as an innovation.”