Tier-1  £2m Investor Visa

The Tier 1 (Investor) visa for investors with £2m, is now [from Feb 2022] closed to new applicants.  It was a great option for

 

  • ‘Passive’ investors investing in listed equity and/or debt.

 

  • Investors in unlisted businesses, including Venture capital / Private Equity investors backing early stage businesses, funding MBOs, or growth.

 

  • Entrepreneurs creating their own UK businesses.

Tier 1 Investor Visa - Key facts

Tier 1 Investors are allowed to work (but not as professional sportsperson/coach or doctor/dentist in training)  and/or study, so it can also be an option for those with family money wanting to come to the UK.  Students over 18 yrs old can use an Investor visa and thereby qualify for settlement relatively quickly.

 

The £2m can not be invested in property, or in a property development or management business.   Investors are able to make such investments, but they must be in addition to the £2m.

 

The spouse/partner of an investor, and children under the age of 18, can apply to enter the UK as dependents of the investor. 

 

As the investor will need to limit their absences from the UK in order to have a visa beyond 5 years, some people choose to have  their spouse as the ‘main applicant’.

Key Requirements of the Tier 1 Investor Visa

 

  1. £2m to invest held in a regulated financial institution & disposable in the UK (i.e. not subject to exchange controls, sanctions, or other restrictions on sending the funds to the UK).

  2. Proof that the money is yours & under your control.

  3. Proof of the source and that it is legitimate. (If you have held the funds consecutively for the 2 years prior to applying, this is not mandatory.  However, unless the funds are already in the UK, most banks will require such proof before accepting the funds.)

  4. Having opened a UK bank account with the bank having carried out the required ‘Know Your Client’ due diligence checks.

  5. Minimum age 18.

 

The visa is also subject to the general requirements of

  • No adverse UK immigration history.

  • Criminal record (or lack thereof) certificate from all countries where you have lived (spent 12+ months) in the last 10 years.

  • Medical certificate showing no TB, if applying from some countries.

 

On Approval

 

An Initial Tier 1 (Investor) visa approval will be:

If the Application is made from abroad:                                                      

3 yrs 4 months

If the Application is made in the UK (switching from Tier 1, 2, or 4):       

3 years

 

As long as you have complied with the visa’s requirements, you can then apply to extend the visa for a further 2 years.

 

  • You must register with the Police on arriving in the UK, unless exempt. Those from China, HK, Russia, Israel, most Gulf, and South American countries need to register.

 

  • Within 3 months of approval (or, in some cases, within 3 months of entering the UK), you must have at least £2m in qualifying investments. Flexibility on the 3 months may be possible if the delay is due to unforeseeable events outside your control.

 

You must ‘maintain the level of investment’ throughout your time as an Investor (i.e. until you get UK settled status, or leave), and, when applying to extend, you must prove this with a series of investment portfolio reports produced by a UK regulated financial institution, Or already invested in the prior 12 months & held in a UK regulated financial institution.  This requirement usually rules out investments already made in an applicant’s own unlisted business.

 

 

Types of Investment

 

The Tier 1 Investor rules do not allow any of the £2m to be invested in (or through)

  • Property, property development, or property management.

  • Investment trusts, Open Ended investment Companies, offshore companies/trusts

  • Pooled investment vehicles other than those which have also received funding/investment from a UK or devolved government department or agency.

  • Companies where the ‘eventual destination’ of the investment is outside the UK (investment in listed UK companies such as BP & GSK is permitted, notwithstanding the fact a large part of their operations are outside the UK).

  • Government bonds (March 2019 rule change: those with visas applied for before the change, can invest in Gilts).

We do not give investment advice, but can introduce you to possible advisors.  We have observed that clients typically fall into one of the categories below:

 

Strategy 1: Minimal Risk

These investors may have previously been tempted by UK government bonds.  They are now looking for highly liquid listed securities, with the lowest possible volatility.  They are prepared to accept low returns, even negative real returns, to minimise the downside.  Given the modest total return expected, controlling investment management fees may be important.

Strategy 2: Balanced Public

These investors may be looking for management meeting the tried-and-tested criteria: “An investment operation is one which, upon thorough analysis, promises safety of principal and a satisfactory return”. 

Strategy 3: VC/PE (managed):

These investors are happy to entrust their capital to professional Venture Capital / Private Equity managers.  They accept lock in-periods, and post lock-in illiquidity.  Care must be taken regarding the funding of fees (see ‘Maintaining the level of investment’) & to ensure that investments are not structured in a way caught by the ‘pooled investment vehicle’ restriction.

 

Strategy 4: Angel or other unlisted direct investment

Investors making their own direct investment in unlisted businesses are often successful entrepreneurs in their own right, and may require little, or no, assistance.  Should it be required, we can

  • Check the compatibility of investments with the Tier 1 criteria.

  • Visit possible investee companies and report on what we have seen.

  • Provide funding / shareholder agreement drafts.

 

Strategy 5: Own business

We are able to help entrepreneurs who want to invest their £2m in their own business.  We can help ensure

  • That the business meets the ‘Active and trading UK company’ definition BEFORE any of the £2m is invested.

  • That the accountants carrying out the annual accounts preparation, and (if needed) audit, are aware of what you need to prove.

  • Work with overseas suppliers/clients is structured to avoid the investment being deemed to have had an ultimate destination outside the UK.

Investing in your own / family business

 

Before the March 2019 rule change, investment could be in any ‘active and trading UK company’. Technically a new shell company with two transactions to its name (purchasing a pen, and then a pad of paper might be enough) could ‘tick the boxes’, although, arguing the case would probably involve spending rather more on legal fees than had been spent on the pen and paper.

 

Investors applying on or after 29th March 2019, must make loans or equity investments in companies which are:

  • Registered with Companies House in the UK;

  • Registered with HM Revenue and Customs for

    • corporation tax, and

    • PAYE

  • Able to show regular trading of goods / services, evidenced by

    • Transactions in a bank account that it holds with a UK bank, and

    • Entries in its accounts (de facto, in an accounting system)

  • Employing, in addition to its Director(s), at least 2 people based in the UK.

 

We can provide clients wanting to invest in their own business with

 

  1. A ‘pre investment check’ that assesses the eligibility of a business & recommends changes, if any seem to be required for investor visa eligibility purposes, that should be made before the investment is made.

  2. A turnkey solution of a visa-suitable trading company with bank account, accounting systems, and staff. Such companies can be

    • Fully transferred to you when you make the investment, with directors & staff resigning, and bank mandates changing, OR

    • Serviced on an ongoing basis, with accounts, payroll, PAYE, VAT, etc filing being run for you in the background while you make the investment decisions.

 

Multinational companies that are registered as UK companies with either a registered office or head office in the UK are acceptable.  However, for privately held businesses, there will be considerable scrutiny should the investment funds not remain in the UK.  It may be that wholly legitimate and arms length transactions involve large payments to non-UK suppliers, but you should be prepared for searching questions if embarking on this sort of business.  If you would like to find out about whether to make an international transfer, or about appropriate structuring / audit trail of documentation, we would be happy to advise.

Business Meeting

Investor Visa Costs of representation

After the initial consultation, we aim to agree a fixed fee wherever practical.  For Investor visa applicants, the factors determining costs include

 

  • Whether the applicant already has a UK bank account

 

  • Any work needed to document the source of funds

 

  • Whether help is needed not only with the visa, but also ensuring the investment complies with the visa rules. In particular, where the investment will be in the investor’s own/family business, or other unlisted securities.

 

  • Whether the applicant is already in the UK and/or able to deal by teleconference/skype. In person consultations are possible in most countries, but the cost of travel time makes meeting outside the UK expensive unless applicants are part of a group that share such costs.

There are additional costs for family members (spouse/partner and/or any children under 18), but these are considerably lower than for the main investor.