One hundred main applicants and 165 of their dependents received UK Investor Visas in the year’s third quarter, figures released today by the Office of National Statistics show. The number represents the highest recorded since before the onset of the pandemic, as well as a 52% quarter-on-quarter improvement from Q2.
Pointing out that Q3 was the first quarter since the pandemic began that the UK was virtually restriction-free, Shard Capital's Farzin Yazdi commented that "we are back to pre-pandemic levels" in terms of approval volumes.
"From speaking to many prospective migrants, the opinion of the UK’s handling [of the pandemic] has been, to my surprise, very positive," he says.
Yazdi's conclusions regarding the attrition of restrictions are echoed by Tatiana Tolstaia, UK Managing Director at Beyond Immigration.
"By comparing these numbers with the statistics from 2020 and Q1-Q2 2021, we can see how the COVID-19 situation, which had previously had an adverse effect on immigration, has now started to improve," she explains. "By the middle of this year, the UK started removing COVID restrictions for travelers, and this gave more confidence to those seeking to establish a stable presence in the UK; potential investors and other high-value migrants looking to relocate to Britain."
The strong rebound, she adds, reflects the UK's persisting status as a "magnet for international UHNWIs who trust in the country’s economic and fiscal system and confide in its financial institutions with their multi-billion capital investments."
At the close of Q3, the aggregate number of investor visas issued in 2021 (211) already rivaled last year's total of 216, indicating the program can expect a significant year-on-year improvement in approval volumes.
23 of the approved applicants were Chinese nationals, 10 were American, 8 Russian, 8 Canadian, 5 Indian, and 5 from Hong Kong.
Though domestic restrictions in the UK have largely fallen away by now, Yazdi concedes that the curbs on travel that remain for certain nationalities are still suppressing investor visa applications.
"This is why China and Hong Kong, whilst still the top nationality [sic] of origin, only account for 28% of the total, which is around half of normal levels."
Overall, since the program's opening in 2008, fully one-third of applicants have been Chinese. At 18% of the total, Russians have made up the second-largest investor cohort, followed by Americans (6%), Hongkongers (5%), and Indians (2.5%). American applicants, in particular, have been outperforming their historical contribution to the program over the last year-and-a-half.
But, as Yazdi points out, the last year has seen a notable rise in European applicants for the program, mirroring the trend we've observed of UK investors now becoming a notable demographic segment among the EU's golden visa programs.
“As a result of Brexit, European Investor applications are materialising from France, Cyprus, and Switzerland. In a post-Brexit world, you are limited to the time spent in a European destination before having to navigate your way through their immigration system. The UK has become a new market to those countries in the same way Europeans have for the UK’s Investor Visa.”
Rejection rates have been falling (unsteadily) for the last several years and amount to some 7% so far this year, though the between-group variance remains high; Iranis and Pakistanis suffer from the highest rates of rejection, at 25% and 22%, respectively, while Brazilians, who have cumulatively submitted 77 applications, maintain their remarkable 100% approval rate so far.
Presuming each investor makes the requisite minimum investment of GBP 2 million (in reality, a non-negligible share of investors opt for the higher amounts to gain an expedited route to permanent residency), the program has raised GBP 422 million so far this year.
Innovator and Startup visa statistics
The Innovator and Startup visas, which in 2019 replaced the Entrepreneur visa category, are also performing well in 2021. Tolstaia remarks that both the Innovator and Startup categories "have shown a remarkable surge of interest among foreign applicants starting from mid-2020, despite the complexity of qualifying requirements."
Q3 2021 was a record quarter for the Startup Visa, which saw 138 main applicants gain approval.
Since the program opened two years ago, one in five applicants have been Indian, 14% Chinese, 11% American, and 9% Pakistani.
Approval volumes for the Innovator Visa did not set any records in Q3 (actually noting a decline) but, Tolstaia points out, the 244 approvals granted so far in 2021 already exceed last year's total of 222.
Alex Hopkin, head of Innovisa at Latitude, says the year-on-year performance of the category "demonstrates a strong and consistent appetite of applicants from various countries looking to relocate to the UK under the UK Innovator Visa Programme."
Like Tolstaia and Yazdi, he indicates improved mobility is the primary cause for larger application volumes in 2021.
"This is consistent with the relaxation of global travel restrictions, especially in core source markets like Nigeria, the USA, and India. Most applicants are applying with other family members, who together are looking to relocate to the UK to take advantage of top-tier education opportunities and participate in the innovative entrepreneurial economy. Processing times remain very fast, with approvals granted in a matter of weeks."
If you like data-driven articles like this one, you'll love the IMI Data Center, the world's largest collection of investment migration statistics.
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine - online or offline - for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 14 years in the United States, China, and Spain.