Industry experts have responded with disbelief to last weeks’ news that the Government is set to scrap a visa scheme that offers investors fast-track residency in the UK as ministers come under mounting pressure to sever economic ties with Russia.
The fast-track investor scheme, introduced in 2008, was designed to tempt wealthy investors from outside the EU to the UK, but government sources have confirmed the scheme was now under review.
The so-called “golden visas” offer residency to those who invest £2m or more into the UK and allows their families to join them.
Responding to the move, Kyra Motley, partner of Boodle Hatfield, a leading private wealth law firm, pointed out that “on a conservative calculation, the Investor Visa scheme has brought in over £17bn of investment into the UK over the last decade.
“That is a substantial success,” Motley told City A.M. this morning.
“We ought to be trying to attract more such foreign investors, not driving them away.”Kyra Motley, partner of Boodle Hatfield
“It seems odd for the Home Office to shut the scheme, even temporarily, before any consultation and without publishing any statistics or other evidence of the misuse of scheme,” Motley continued.
Currently, a £2m investment allows an application within five years, shortened to three years with £5m or two years if £10m is invested.
The government’s move comes amid concerns about Moscow’s influence in the UK as tensions continue about a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Labour former minister Chris Bryant has previously called for a full review of the scheme as he accused the Government of “giving out golden visas to dodgy Russian oligarchs” and said the system is used as a “backdoor loophole” to funnel dirty money into the UK.
However, “suggesting that the investor visa scheme is synonymous with corruption, money laundering and fraud is not at all accurate. Nor does it seem accurate to suggest that the Investor Visa scheme undermines national security,” Motley said.
Four years ago, a report published by the Foreign Affairs Committee, which at that time included the now Home Secretary Priti Patel as a member, accused ministers of risking national security by “turning a blind eye” to the Russian “dirty money” flowing through the City of London.
Concerns over the practice of issuing golden visas were raised during this inquiry which found that despite the outcry over the Salisbury Novichok nerve agent attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies were continuing to use London as a base for their “corrupt assets”.
An announcement of the end of the scheme is expected this week as pressure mounts on ministers to rebuke Russia over its threats to invade Ukraine.