Golden visas for wealthy foreign investors suspended in crime crackdown

Pedro Gonçalves
Golden visas for wealthy foreign investors suspended in crime crackdown

Foreign investors spending millions of pounds in the UK will face new visa restrictions as part of reforms designed to tackle organised crime and money laundering.

The tier 1 visa, which provides a fast track route to settlement for people willing to invest millions in the UK, will be suspended from Friday until new rules are put in place in 2019.

Tier 1 visas were introduced in 2008 to attract non-EU citizens to invest millions of pounds into the UK, with more than 1,000 granted in the year ending September 2018.

An investment of £2m or more could secure a visa and indefinite leave to remain after five years.

Tier 1 visas, known as golden visas, have been criticised for providing an easy route into the UK for oligarchs and the super-rich looking to launder stolen wealth. In July, figures showed a 46% increase in the number of applicants to the tier 1 investor visa scheme, with more than 400 applications from wealthy overseas investors.

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea football club and friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, withdrew his golden visa application earlier this year as relations between the two countries went south over the Salisbury spy poisoning.

He was also denied residency in Switzerland after police warned officials of a possible "threat to public security" and the risk to the country's reputation.

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said: "The UK will always be open to legitimate and genuine investors who are committed to helping our economy and businesses grow.

"However, I have been clear that we will not tolerate people who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the system.