NEW DELHI: The United Kingdom has scrapped the Tier 1 investor visa with immediate effect as they allege it was posing security risks.
Diamond merchant Nirav Modi is believed to have been living in the UK on an investor visa applied in 2015. This visa has facilitated nearly 254 Indian millionaires to settle in the UK since 2008.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel while scrapping this visa three days ago said she had zero tolerance for abuse of the immigration system. "Under my new plan for immigration, I want to ensure the British people have confidence in the system, including stopping corrupt elites who threaten our national security and push dirty money around our cities,’’ she added.
Also referred to as the golden visa, the process to get one began with a commitment to invest £2 million (Rs 20 crore or $2.7 million) in the UK. The visa was processed within three weeks – far easier than an asylum application. On getting this visa individuals got an immediate right to live in the UK for three years followed by a two-year extension. A quicker way for permanent residency was investing £10 million (Rs 100 crore) after which they would get permanent residency after two years.
According to a report released by a UK-based anti-corruption charity, Indians have ranked as the 7th nationality of the super-rich to have availed this visa between 2008 to 2020.
China topped the list at 4,106, followed by Russia (2,526), Hong Kong (692), the United States (685), Pakistan (283) and Kazakhstan (278) ahead of India.
Saudi Arabia at 223, Turkey at 221 and Egypt at 206 complete the list of the top 10 countries to have been issued the visa allowing applicants residency rights in the UK, with around half the total now under review. Around 6,312 visas applied under this scheme are under the scanner.
In an October 2015 report, Transparency International UK said, “it is highly likely that substantial amounts of corrupt wealth stolen from China and Russia have been laundered into the UK through the UK’s golden visa programme”.
The British government has been reviewing the visas for investors since 2018, shortly after the poisoning for former Russian agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. This adversely impacted relation between UK and Kremlin.
British PM Boris Johnson had said earlier this week that his government was looking at ways of hitting Russia with economic sanctions if it were to invade Ukraine and it was taking measures to make foreign ownership of UK assets more transparent.
It is reported that between June 2009 to April 2015 about 3000 successful applicants got to stay in the UK under this visa and out of these 700 were Russian millionaires.
How many Indian’s are likely to be impacted by this scrapping, only time will tell. Those under the scanner would surely have something to worry about till then.