Tier 1 (Investor) visa

The Tier 1 (Investor) immigration category is designed to encourage high-net-worth individuals to make substantial financial investments in the UK, enabling non-EEA nationals who invest a minimum of £2m in the UK to come and live in the UK with their families.

Tier 1 (Investor) migrants and their families may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) (also known as permanent residence or settlement) after five years (or potentially after two or three years under one of the accelerated routes). After remaining in the UK for five years, including at least one year as a permanent resident, Tier 1 (Investor) migrants and their dependants may qualify for British citizenship.

Who can apply?

The Tier 1 (Investor) category is available to individuals who have funds of at least £2m (sterling) to invest in the UK. It is the most flexible visa category in that it allows the applicant and their dependants to undertake employment, self-employment, study or be self-sufficient in the UK.

Requirements for an initial application for an investor visa

Although the application is usually made from overseas, an application can be made in the UK if the applicant is already in the UK and holds a long-term visa valid for over six months. Consequently, visitors cannot apply in the UK and must apply from their country of nationality or a country in which they hold long-term immigration permission.

The basic criteria are:

  • the applicant must be at least 18 years of age;
  • the applicant must have a minimum of £2m that must be;
    • the applicant’s own money under their control or money owned by their husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried partner to which they have unrestricted access;
    • held in a regulated financial institution; ortransferable and disposable in the UK if the funds are not already in the UK;
    • the applicant must have opened a UK regulated bank or investment account; and
  • the applicant, and their adult dependant partner (if applicable), must obtain a criminal record certificate from any country where they have stayed (cumulatively or continuously) for 12 months or more over the last 10 years.

It is important to note that the UK Home Office is able to refuse a Tier 1 (Investor) visa application if it has reasonable grounds to believe that:

  • the applicant is not in control of the investment funds;
  • the funds were obtained unlawfully (or by means which would be unlawful if they happened in the UK); or
  • the character, conduct or associations of a party providing the funds mean that approving the application is not conducive to the public good.

Provided the application is successful, the applicant will be granted entry to the UK as a Tier 1 (Investor) migrant, and their dependants, for three years and four months, or three years if they are applying in the UK.

Requirements for a Tier 1 (Investor) visa extension

To apply for an extension of the Tier 1 (Investor) visa, the applicant must:

  • continue to have money of their own under their control in the UK amounting to no less than £2m;
  • have invested the money in specified ways and maintained the investments correctly (see our separate note "Tier 1 (Investor) visa: what investments qualify?");
  • made the investment within 90 days of either entry into the UK (where there is evidence to establish the date of entry to the UK, that is a passport with a stamped visa on entry to the UK or flight tickets and boarding card), or the date of the grant of the visa; and
  • provide a series of portfolio reports certified as correct by a UK regulated financial institution which must meet certain prescriptive and detailed requirements.

Our separate note "Tier 1 (Investor) visa: what investments qualify?" gives more detail on the types of investments that do and do not qualify.

Provided the applicant meets the above criteria, they, and their dependants (if applicable), should be granted a visa extension for a further two years.

ILR

If the applicant invested £2m in the UK, they may be eligible to apply for ILR after five years. Any dependants may also apply for ILR at the same time, provided they obtained their initial immigration permission at the same time as the applicant.

If the applicant invested £5m or £10m in the UK, they may qualify for ILR after three years or two years, respectively. However, their family members would still need to wait five years before they can apply for ILR.

In order to obtain ILR, the applicant must meet the residence requirements, which are that they must not have been outside of the UK for more than 180 days in any rolling 12 month period during the two / three / five year qualifying period for ILR.

It is important to note that dependants who have been granted periods of immigration permission on or after 11 January 2018 will now need to meet the same residence requirements at the ILR stage for any period(s) of leave granted after this date.

The applicant and their dependants over 18 years old will also need to demonstrate that they can communicate in English to the required level and pass the Life in the UK Test in order to qualify for ILR.

Once the applicant has obtained ILR, they may withdraw their investment if they wish to do so.

Naturalisation or registration as a British citizen

If the applicant invested £2m in the UK, they may apply for British citizenship after living in the UK for five years, including at least one year with ILR. This normally means that an applicant will become eligible after six years of living in the UK.

If the applicant invested £5m or £10m in the UK, they may be eligible to apply for British citizenship after five years of living in the UK, provided, again, this includes one year of holding ILR.

Their dependants would be entitled to apply for British citizenship after living in the UK for five years, including at least one year with ILR, which, again, normally means that they will become eligible after six years of living in the UK.

There are stricter residence requirements for British citizenship compared to ILR. The applicant and their dependants must demonstrate that they have not been absent from the UK for more than:

  • 450 days in total in the last five years before applying for British citizenship;
  • 90 days in the last 12 months before applying for British citizenship; and
  • six consecutive months in the last five years before applying for British citizenship.

It is possible for UK Visas and Immigration to waive excess absences in certain circumstances, for example, if absences beyond the prescribed limits were due to business travel for a UK-based employment or self-employment role.

After obtaining British citizenship, the applicant, and their dependants, may subsequently apply for their first British passports.

Conclusion

The Tier 1 (Investor) visa category is a great route for those that have significant funds to invest in the UK as it is the least restrictive UK immigration route which can lead to ILR and British citizenship.

It is important that applicants wishing to apply under the Tier 1 (Investor) category engage an experienced immigration practitioner who can advise them on the detailed requirements, the application process and ensure their qualifying investment is made and maintained in line with the criteria for the route.