The UK government announced on Thursday that it is discontinuing so-called “golden visas” that provide residency to wealthy foreign investors, citing security concerns, and renewing demands for the UK to reconsider its ties with Russia.
According to the Home Office, the Tier 1 investor visa route has provided chances for “corrupt elites to access the UK.“
According to the report, the visas have “given rise to security issues, including people earning their money illegitimately and being associated with greater corruption” in some circumstances.
The visa route, which was launched in 2008, grants residency to people who invest 2 million pounds ($2.7 million) or more in the UK and permits their families to accompany them. The more money spent, the sooner an individual can apply for settlement and, eventually, British citizenship.
The government said that it will close to new applications of all nationalities with immediate effect. Many of the individuals who obtained such visas were Russians, and critics have long questioned whether the scheme enabled money laundering in the United Kingdom. Worries in the UK about Moscow’s reach have grown as the danger of a Russian invasion of Ukraine looms.
As part of a study on Russian influence in the UK, the UK Parliament’s intelligence and security committee recommended a “more stringent” approach to awarding Tier 1 visas in 2020. According to the research, numerous Russians with close ties to Putin exploited this strategy to influence UK legislation and enterprises.
Since the scheme’s inception in 2008, the Home Office has given 14,516 investment visas to Russian citizens. Between 2008 and 2020, 254 Indian millionaires were granted golden visas.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said the action was part of the government’s war on illegal funding.
“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,” Patel said in a statement.
The UK’s attempt to end the “golden visa” scheme came as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that further measures were being planned in the event that Putin’s troops invaded Ukraine. When asked about cracking down on Russian money in the UK on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised “strong sanctions” against Russia.
“Clearly, it’s time to bring in some tough sanctions against the Russian regime, against big Russian companies — organisations of strategic importance. And also making sure that we stop the raising of funds by Russian companies on London financial markets,” Johnson said.
According to Shard Capital’s analysis of Home Office data, around 1,400 investor visas were given between 2015 and 2020. As per a 2020 Parliamentary investigation, the investor visa program had been “exploited,” and it provided ideal mechanisms for illegal finance to be recycled through what has been dubbed the London “laundromat.”
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