Tier 1 visa renewal - delays for Abramovich, uncertainty for Chelsea

7 mins

Posted on 04 Jun 2018

Even super-wealthy oligarchs can’t escape visa delays, as Roman Abramovich, Chelsea’s owner, recently found. 

It is understood that Mr Abramovich is on a Tier 1 Investor visa, which expired three weeks ago. He has made an application to renew his visa but the process is taking a little longer than usual. 

The “delay” has meant that he was unable to attend the recent FA Cup final at Wembley where his team beat Manchester United. 

Unsurprisingly, the UK Security Minister declined to comment on the application. There is certainly no suggestion that Mr Abramovich has done anything wrong, but the delay comes during heightened diplomatic tensions between Britain and Russia, following the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury this year, along with recent British military involvement in Syria.

What is an Investor Visa? 

A Tier 1 Investor visa is available to high net worth individuals who wish to make a substantial financial investment in the UK. With a Tier 1 Investor visa, you can invest £2m or more in UK government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies. You can also work or study. 

What are the main eligibility requirements for a Tier 1 Investor Visa?

The first, and major, requirement for this category is that you need to invest £2m or more in the UK and will need to provide evidence that you have the required funds. This is obviously no stumbling block for Mr Abramovich whose net worth is north of £9bn. You must also be 18 or over, be able to prove that the money belongs to either you or a spouse, unmarried or same-sex partner and have opened a UK bank account. The funds you are investing must be held in one or more regulated financial institutions and must be free to spend in the UK. 

How long can you stay in the UK on a Tier 1 Investor Visa?

You can stay for a maximum of 3 years and 4 months. You can then extend your visa for another 2 years.

Under this visa category, you may ultimately be able to settle in the UK. Those investing significant sums of money can usually apply to settle more quickly. For example, if you invest £10m you may apply to settle after 2 years in the UK and where this is £5m, this is increased by a further year to 3 years. Those on Tier 1 Investor visas are currently allowed to be outside the UK for up to 180 days in any 12 month period without affecting their right to settlement. 

What are the application costs for a Tier 1 Investor Visa?

The current visa application fee is £1,623 and you can apply online or by post. The fee is the same if you are extending or switching visas. You will also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application. 

How long is the Tier 1 Investor Visa processing time? 

You will usually get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks from the date you apply. You will need to apply for your initial Tier 1 Investor visa from outside the UK and depending on where you are applying from, you may have the option to expedite your application so that it is processed within 5 working days or in some cases, 24 hours. There is an additional fee for these expedited services. The earliest you can apply for your Tier 1 Investor visa is 3 months before you travel. 

What about extending your Tier 1 Investor visa?

The rules vary depending on whether you successfully applied for your visa on or after 6 November 2014. If you successfully applied before this date then you can apply to extend your visa if you have:

  • At least £1m under your control in the UK
  • Invested at least £75,000 (or 75%) of that in UK government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active UK companies
  • Invested this sum within 3 months of your ‘investor start date’ and provide supporting evidence of this

If you successfully applied after this date then you can apply to extend your visa if you have: 

  • At least £2m under your control in the UK
  • Invested those funds in UK government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active UK companies
  • Invested this sum within 3 months of your ‘investor start date’ and provide supporting evidence of this

Your extension application can be made outside or inside the UK, depending on when your current visa expires. You can apply to extend your visa online and will have to pay an application fee (as above), as well as the healthcare surcharge.

For in-country applications, you will usually get a decision on your application within 8 weeks. For those who need their visa quickly and are applying from within the UK, there is a super-premium mobile service available which means that a courier will collect your application forms and documents and premium service staff will visit you to take your biometric information. You will usually get a decision within 24 hours. There is an additional fee of £10,500 for this service.

So what’s next for Abramovich and a UK visa?

Following the delay in renewing his UK visa, it has since emerged that Abramovich has obtained Israeli citizenship and moved to Tel Aviv. Amid the speculation, a UK government spokesperson has confirmed that although Chelsea’s owner will be able to visit the UK on his Israeli passport, he cannot work in the country. In order to live and work in the UK, he would need to obtain a UK visa. 

Will similar delays be faced by other Tier 1 Investors?

Abramovich’s visa delay has been the source of many headlines in recent weeks. Several of those have put the delay down to the government’s crackdown on wealthy investors coming to the UK and the increased scrutiny into the source of an individual’s wealth.

Tighter regulations governing Tier 1 investor visas were introduced in April 2015, after Abramovich’s previous visa was granted, meaning he now faces different and tougher standards for reapplying for his new Tier 1 Investor visa from outside the UK. These regulations introduced the power to refuse applications where there are reasonable grounds to believe the applicant is not in control of the funds, any of the money has been acquired unlawfully or the origin of the funds means that approving the visa would not be conducive to the public good. 

Tier 1 investor visas are thought to be held by 700 Russians and it is not immaterial that this delay has happened following the Salisbury poisoning and increasing political tension between Britain and Russia.

What is the impact of tighter Tier 1 Investor visa regulations? 

However, those applying from Russia are not the only applicants to have felt the impact of the tighter regulations. It is estimated that there has been an overall fall of 84% in the number of investor visa applications since the tighter regulations were introduced. 

A spokesperson for the government recently said that they are currently taking another look at how the route operates and are undertaking further checks on investors who came to the UK through this route before the reforms were introduced. It therefore seems unlikely that the number of applications will increase any time soon. 

If you would like to find out more about how we help investors obtain or extend their Tier 1 Investor visas please contact Head of Business Immigration Anita de Atouguia at adeatouguia@doyleclayton.co.uk or on +44 (0)20 7329 9090. 

If you would like to get in touch with our Business Immigration team please email Immigration@doyleclayton.co.uk or call +44(0)20 7329 9090.

The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

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