Immigration – what is the future of the Tier 1 investor visa for UK and Ireland?

by Denis McGettigan on Mar 16, 2022

The UK government has made the decision to suspend the Investor route, or so called "golden visa route", with the suspension taking place immediately for all applicants and all nationalities.

The reasons behind the decision appears to be fears that as the route led to right of residence, and potentially citizenship in the UK, that it was open to exploitation by wealthy criminals, or perhaps more accurately wealthy individuals who may have acquired their wealth in illegal or unethical ways and which may not have been so apparent during the application process.

An example of this are applicants from overseas governments or political figures that have amassed significant wealth. On the face of it, they can prove they have significant funds available for investment and appear to be credible and legitimate, but the reality is that the source of their wealth can be more questionable.

The likelihood of an actual convicted criminal passing the application process is remote due to the requirement for criminal background checks. However the system has become a vehicle for those without formal convictions with nothing on record to necessarily trigger any red flags. Their money was nevertheless obtained from illegitimate dealings. These applications have become more and more difficult to vet even with recent changes.

The timing of the suspension may be linked to the actions of Russia in threatening the Ukraine, but according to the press statement on the 17th Feb 2022 the Government claim to have been reviewing this route for some time as part of its wider overhaul of the immigration system, of which there have been many changes lately.

The path for legitimate investors has not been completely closed. There remain limited and stricter options available through the points based system. This system is set to be more focused on investment that helps to create jobs in the UK rather than the investor route which appears to have achieved little.

The closing of this route will be disappointing news to some seeking to come to the UK and for some companies in the UK that benefited from the investments. It is however a positive step towards reducing the possibility of those that sought to take advantage of the system. It is unfortunate that these steps come at a price for those who were actually legitimate applicants.

As the UK closes the door on the investor visa, I now wonder whether this will have an impact on Ireland. Naturally many of the applicants were attracted to the UK as they wished to relocate to an English-speaking country. Ireland is the last remaining English speaking country in the EU that offers an investment route. The question arises as to whether this poses an opportunity or a threat for Ireland’s investor visa route which currently remains open for applications, with the exception from the 8th of March of Russian nationals.

Ireland will certainly, in my view, be keeping an eye on this space very closely in light of the UK's decision. It is inevitable that applicants hoping to rely on the UK investor route will now focus on Ireland as the next best alternative. There has been much criticism and speculation within Ireland regarding the route. I personally have seen some genuine examples of investments via this route making a significant positive impact in the community. The role of the Irish Government will now be to balance such positive investments with any risk of abuse in their decisions as allowing the country to remain open for foreign investment.