Wealthy Expats Shunning A Move To The UK

Tax Planning

The number of wealthy expats looking to settle in Britain has plunged since the government doubled the amount of cash they need to invest to buy a visa.

The drop in applications coincides exactly with the change of policy.

At the end of 2014, expats wanting to come to the UK needed to show they had £1 million to invest in the country to get a ‘tier one’ investor visa.

The figure then jumped to £2 million.

Applications then plummeted around 83% from 1,290 in 2014 to 136 in the first nine months of 2015.

The countries with the largest fall in applications are Russia and China.

“A Russian needs a lot more money now to apply for a tier one visa now due to currency exchange fluctuations,” said Sergey Litovchenko, of law firm Pinsent Masons.

Who applies for golden visas?

“They need about four times as much cash now compared with before November 2014 as the exchange rate has risen from 50 to 100 roubles to a pound and the investment cash has gone from £1 million to £2 million.”

Official records show that 3,340 applications were made for a tier one visa between June 2008 and June 2015 – the break down by country is:

  • China – 1,220 applications
  • Russia – 705
  • US – 205
  • United Arab Emirates – 170
  • Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey – 45
  • Kazakhstan, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia – 40
  • Others – 785

The Home Office revealed 91% of applications were granted, 8% were refused and 1% were withdrawn or not pursued by the expat.

Finding golden visas

Some of the loss of interest in investing in the UK from expats is blamed on better terms offered by countries promoting similar schemes.

The Home Office explained the investment amount was increased as part of measures to cool rising property prices in London fuelled by foreign investors.

In the European Union, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus and Malta all offer wealthy immigrants golden visa programs which include residency visas for dependants and lower investment thresholds – typically 1 million euros (£722,000).

These are attractive to wealthy expats who are seeking European Union residence – and one an expat becomes an EU resident, freedom of movement allows them to invest in one country and then move to Britain.

Outside of the EU, Singapore has a golden visa program popular with Chinese expats.

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