Group calls for clarification from govt.
Anti-corruption campaigners have condemned the British Home Office’s decision to backtrack on plans to suspend a “golden visa” scheme for wealthy investors, just days after announcing the suspension. Last week, the Home Office had said it was planning to suspend the Tier-1 (investor) visa scheme that enables its holders to gain a swifter route to settlement in the U.K. until new safeguarding rules were brought in in 2019. While mainly used by Russian and Chinese nationals, it is also popular with Indian nationals: 82 applied for an investor visa through this route between 2008 and March 2018, reported Transparency International. However, the formal announcement to Parliament never materialised, with no mention of the scheme or changes to it in an update from the Home Office. “The Tier 1 (Investor) visa is not currently suspended, however, we remain committed to reforming the route. A further announcement will be made in due course,” said the Home Office in a statement. Transparency International, which is among the campaign groups pushing for change amid signs that reforms left the route open to abuse, called for urgent clarification from the government. “It is vital that the government has a joined-up approach to fighting corruption with departments working together in unison. We are concerned to hear conflicting messages on government action on this important issue over the past week,” said Rachel Davies Teka, head of advocacy at Transparency International U.K. “The corruption risks inherent in these schemes was serious enough for Caroline Nokes [the Minister of State for Immigration] to suspend them last week, so what’s changed?” said Naomi Hirst, a senior anti-corruption campaigner at Global Witness. “For a government so keen on taking back control of its borders, this is not just an embarrassment, it’s shameful.”
The scheme, which is open to those who invest at least £2 million in U.K. government, shares or businesses, offers a faster route to settlement in the country. Those who invest over £10 million can apply to settle after two years, while those who invest over £5 million can do so in three years. While the U.K. government had sought to position the visa scheme as part of its strategy to attract the “brightest and the best”, campaigners have long warned that it provided a means for the super wealthy internationally to launder money in the U.K.