Category Archives: CItizenship

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.

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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.

Spanish Residence by Investment: Who’s Eligible?

Increasingly, European governments are easing access to EU residence status and citizenship to wealthy foreigners.  Spain is one such country – since September 2013  offering residency to foreigners in return for a significant investment in the country.

The requirements
The legislation is quite straightforward; in return for an investment of €500,000 EUR in real estate (taxes not included); or €2,000,000 in Spanish Debt or; €1,000,000 in Spanish company shares or Spanish Financial institutions, non-EU nationals and their families can be granted a resident permit for a year, renewable every two years if the investment is maintained. It does not grant citizenship, but can lead to it later on.

The requirements to fill – excluding the capital – are minimal; a clear criminal and immigration history, subscription to a health insurance and proof that the applicants have enough money to sustain themselves. It should not be difficult for high net worth individuals to prove they will not be a burden on States’ finances!

Benefits
The new legislation waives the previous requirement of six months of residency. Applicants to the visa only need to have visited Spain once before applying.

The permit gives investors the right to live in Spain and travel freely inside of Spain as well as within the 26-countries in the Schengen area. Family members can access schools both state and private – and given the strong internal links between European universities, will be granted easier access to universities in Europe including the UK.

An attractive offer
This new legislation has opened the door to thousands of potential investors – mainly Russian and Chinese – looking to benefit from Spain’s low property prices and the benefits of the Mediterranean lifestyle.

The initiative has revived the sagging property market which surplus inventory of between 700,000 and 1 million unsold homes as recently as 2012. Airports are now covered with real estate wall advertisements translated into Mandarin.

However, there are still some important questions that remain unanswered such as:

  • How soon can you sell the property without losing the residency status?
  • How can one become naturalized and obtain a Spanish passport after obtaining residency through this program?
  • Can foreign investors enjoy the resident status if they lease the property, in whole or in part?

Migreat experts provide answers to these questions in a single webinar happening September 2nd 2015, online at 3PM London Time. To attend,  register now on Migreat Immigration Webinar page.

Do I really need to hire a solicitor for my UK Visa?

When it comes to applying for a visa, there is much information to collect, paperwork to get done and questions to be answered. You may feel confused by all of the application forms and official guidelines.

Rightly so: applications are personal, differ from one case to another, and the information available is frequently not up to date and too general. This is why, in some case, it might be a good idea to enlist the services of an immigration expert to assist you in applying for a visa.

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Here are the 5 reasons why Migreat would advise you to call and pay for an immigration solicitor.

  1. Save time

If your case is fairly straightforward, you will probably be able to manage things on your own. However, in most cases, people hire the services of an immigration lawyer because it saves a lot of time. On average, It will take you two to four weeks to pull together your first visa application with the correct (original) documents if it is not your only job.

A solicitor can help you reduce this time to about a week – and even faster if you have all documentation at hand.

  1. Avoid clerical errors

By hiring an immigration lawyer, you are significantly lowering the risks of having your application refused due to a mistake on a form.

Regulated immigration solicitors know the paperwork, appeal processes and where to find the most up to date rules. What’s more, an experienced immigration solicitor will be familiar with the usual mistakes and pay greater attention to details that they know are important to case-workers reviewing applications. They will be able to avoid common ‘schoolboy’ errors and even decrease back and forth by asking for more documents that help support your application while at the same time double checking the latest rules and updates from fellow experts.

  1. Support with communications to UKVI and speeding the process

You might be asked for more documents and evidence from the UKVI. Often, these requests needs to be answered in seven days. Or you might be visited by the UKVI at your office for more information and a general formal interview if you are an employer. In these cases, immigration solicitors are your most useful resource.

An immigration expert will be able to draft your communication letters to the UKVI, or even speak on your behalf. If you are applying for an entrepreneur visa or a sponsorship licence, an immigration solicitor will prepare you for the interview with the UKVI. Finally, if the process takes longer than expected, a good immigration solicitor will be able to expedite your application and facilitate the process if she/he has reasonable grounds to think the process is being delayed.

  1. They have a feel for what is best for you NOW.

Immigration rules are officially changed twice per year in the UK – Once in April and once in October. However, sometimes minor changes happen in between due to abuse or imminent security risks. Changes like these are never easy to handle concretely, and sometimes the new rule leave room for confusion and do not address all particular cases in a straightforward fashion.

Immigration solicitors are expert at interpreting these changes and digging for more information. Better yet, experienced solicitors have a network to rely on to gather more informal information and a gut feel that will help navigate the new rules and advise you on what it means for your application.

  1. An investment for the future

Hiring a solicitor is a worthy investment if you are serious about moving to the UK on a long term basis. Once you have worked with an immigration solicitor, you can rely on them to be there for you in the future. Either for the renewal of your visa or for the immigration of your family members, you have someone you trust that you can call. Moreover, by working with you on your first application, they have enough information to help you better and at a faster pace next time.

The benefits for you are mutual: you now know prices and how the solicitor can assist you best. They know your immigration history from the start and will be able to keep you informed about changes within your category that affect your rights, daily life or future in the UK.

British Passport in the pocket

These are the five main reasons you might want to consider hiring an immigration solicitor in the UK. It has been said that a good lawyer can be worth his or her weight in gold and a poor one will add to your problems. So choose wisely and pick someone you trust to handle your case or ask Migreat for help choosing an immigration expert that fits your needs, budget and situation – this is what Migreat does best.

How much does it cost to become citizen of another country?

In most European countries, to be provided with citizenship rights will cost you to prove numerous years of legal residence within the country.

Exception made of a few islands in the Caribbeans, Malta and Cyprus where a handful of investment can get you a passport and full new citizenship straight-away.

This grant of citizenship – also called economic citizenship – is sought after by wealthy people as a way to escape political unrest, manage the value of their wealth and enjoy greater flexibility to travel the world.

We list here below and compare these five island where you can buy your way in. They are ranged from the most expensive to the least.

  • Cyprus: €2,500,000 to €5,000,000
Cypris citizenship is highly attractive to wealthy Russians, photo credit by Leonid Mamchenkov
Cypris citizenship is highly attractive to wealthy Russians.Photo credit by Leonid Mamchenkov

Requirements
Applicants are required to either

– make an investment of at least €2m in shares and/or bonds of the Cyprus State Investment Company and donate at least €0.5m to the Cypriot Research and Technology Fund, or;

– make an investment of at least €5m in Cyprus. The following types of investments qualify

  • Property (but not undeveloped land)
  • Cypriot businesses or companies
  • Bonds, securities, debentures
  • Investment or participation in public works, or;

– deposit at least €5m in a Cypriot bank for three years on fixed terms.

– own, or partly-own, a company which has paid a certain amount taxes and other fees to the Cypriot government and which employs a certain number of people in Cyprus.

Benefits
Cyprus is part of the EU. As such, you gain the right to live, work and study in the EU and the right to travel to 157 countries visa-free, including the EU.

  • Malta: starting at €1,050,000
Maltese Passport. Photo credits Jon Rawlinson
Maltese Passport. Photo credits Jon Rawlinson

Requirements: Applicants are required to make

– a non-refundable contribution of €650,000 to the National Fund and Economy of Malta,

– an investment in property of at least €350,000,

– finally, an investment of €150,000 in Gov bonds for the next five years.

Benefits: Malta is part of the EU. As such, you gain the right to live, work and study in the EU. As well as gain access to travel to 166 countries visa-free, including the EU.

  • St Kitts & Nevis* & Antigua & Barbuda: $250,000

    a panoramic view of English Harbour and southern Antigua from Shirley Heights by David Stanley
    a panoramic view of English Harbour and southern Antigua from Shirley Heights by David Stanley

Requirements
Applicants to St Kitts & Nevis Citizenship are required to make either

– a non-refundable contribution of US$ 250,000 to the national Charity

– an $400,000 investment in real estate in the country.

Exceptions* The program is now closed for applicants from Afghanistan and Iran.

Applicants to Antigua & Barbuda Citizenship are required to make either

– a contribution to the National Development Fund (NDF) of a minimum non-refundable amount of US$200,000 (for a single applicant), or;

– an investment of at least US$400,000 into one of the approved real estate projects, or;

– an investment of a minimum of US$1,500,000 directly into an eligible business as a sole investor or a joint investment involving at least 2 persons.

Along investments,  both programs include significant administrative fees to be paid to the Government.

Benefits
Citizens of Antigua & Barbuda and St Kitts & Nevis can travel like to 132 countries without the need to obtain a visa.

  • Dominica: $100,000
Photo Credit by Patrick Nouhailler
Photo Credit by Patrick Nouhailler

Requirements
Applicants are required to make

– an non-refundable investment of $100,000 to the Dominican Government and;

– Pay administrative fees associated with the application.

Benefits
Dominica is a Commonwealth nation. Its citizens get special privileges in the UK, and can travel up to 91 countries, including Switzerland, without a visa.

Dominica’s economic citizenship does not require residency terms. Dominica allows dual citizenship.

This second citizenship is a legal way to reduce taxes; revenue generated outside of Dominica is tax free, it is not subject to capital gains tax, or inheritance tax or any other tax. The application process is strictly confidential, with no disclosure or exchange of information

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Interested in economic citizenship? Ask Migreat for more information and for support with your application.

Need help with citizenship to the UK? France? Germany? Italy or Spain? Ask us for help on migreat.com