UK Investor visa: a golden immigration route for criminals?

At Migreat, we keep an eye on immigration news, government announcements and the hard data backing these information up.

This week, we came across an interesting report from Transparency International UK that tell us what we at Migreat have argued for a while now: the UK immigration system favours wealthy immigrants – and it does it at a high costs for society.

Websites advertising the investor visa before the change of rules in April 2015
Websites advertising the investor visa before the change of rules in April 2015

Red Carpet for Investors
The UK immigration rules are tough for low-skilled migrants and international students but when it comes to investors, rules are much more relaxed.

In its latest report Gold rush: Investment visas and corrupt capital flows into the UK  Transparency International UK reveals how the UK’s Tier 1 Investor visa scheme is likely to have been used for money laundering practices.

The UK Investor Visa
Since 2008, the UK investor visa allows non-EU wealthy nationals to live and work in the UK if the bring an investment of at least £2 million in a UK bank account. This visa is the only UK Visa for which applicants do not have to prove to be able to speak appropriate English to be granted the right to come live in the UK.

Furthermore, the more money is brought to the UK, the faster and easier it is for the investor and its family to be granted leave to remain and apply for a British Passport. If an applicant shows £5 million, he/she can get the right to apply for permanent resident after 3 years in the country. If the applicant shows to be bringing £10 million then the time to apply for permanent residence is reduced to 2 years.

Corrupt Wealth getting unchecked
According to Transparency International UK,  £1.88bn of Chinese and Russian private investment has been channelled into the UK through this golden investor visa scheme since 2008 and this was done without adequate and essential money laundering checks on these investments. 

The report details how due diligence was not operated due to “blind faith”.

  • Before April 2015, the visa was granted before the money was transferred in the UK – meaning that the source of the money was NOT checked by UK banks prior the granting of the Visa. UK banks used the fact that the individual were granted a UK investor visa as a qualifying evidence to overcome due diligence concerns when assessing the individual’s legitimacy.
  • Before September 2015, no criminal background checks was done by the Government against applicants under the scheme
  • Since the implementation of a check for criminal record and the obligation for the money to be transferred to the UK (and so checked by banks following strict due diligence work) the amount of applicants have sharply dropped. (see below)
UK Gov National Statistics
UK Gov National Statistics

So no only, corrupt individuals have been attracted to an investor visa in order to achieve residency in the UK but, it has been also an attractive tool to help circumvent a bank’s due diligence checks.


We, at Migreat, can only be saddened that immigration rules can be so easily used by criminals meanwhile we receive everyday requests from foreign entrepreneurs having difficulties stay legally in the country because the UK Entrepreneur visa route is not accessible to them. We will continue advocating in the press for a fair and healthy immigration policy are that favours talented people, bright minds and job creators.

Read our guides on how to apply for a UK Entrepreneur Visa, Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa or a UK Work Visa.

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