LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Britain is set to scrap the so-called golden visa programme that gives foreign nationals a path to residence if they invest more than 2 million pounds (S$3.7 million) as the government looks to curb the influence of Russian money.
The abolition of the Tier 1 investor visa will be announced shortly, according to a person familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity. The British Home Office said it had already reformed the rules around the Tier 1 visa and it had "not ruled out making further changes", according to an emailed statement.
The British government has been reviewing the visas for investors since 2018, shortly after the poisoning of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury led to a deterioration in relations between London and the Kremlin. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday (Feb 15) that his government was looking at ways of hitting Russia with economic sanctions if it were to invade Ukraine, and that it was already taking more steps to make the foreign ownership of British assets more transparent.
The Russian government has repeatedly denied that it plans to invade its neighbour.
Under the Tier 1 visa a person can stay in Britain for three years and four months in exchange for the 2 million-pound investment, and can then apply to settle permanently after five years. They can apply to settle after only two years if they spend 10 million pounds.
The Home Office also said it is looking at all Tier 1 visas issued between 2008, when the programme was launched, and April 2015, when the process was reformed. After April 2015 applicants had to provide evidence of the source of their funds and a bank letter confirming they had been through adequate due diligence.
Home Office data compiled by Shard Capital shows that there were about 1,400 investor visas issued between 2015 and 2020.
A parliamentary report from 2020 said there had been "exploitation" of the British investor visa programme and that it "offered ideal mechanisms by which illicit finance could be recycled through what has been referred to as the London 'laundromat'".