UK Scraps ‘Golden Visas’ for Wealthy Foreign Investors Over Security Concerns

By Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
February 17, 2022Updated: February 17, 2022

The UK government has scrapped the so-called “golden visas” for wealthy foreign investors over security concerns.

The Home Office announced on Thursday that the Tier 1 Investor visa route has been shut to all new applicants from all nationalities with immediate effect.

The visa, launched in 2008, has often been called a “golden visa,” as it offered residency to those investing £2 million ($2.7 million) or more in the UK, and allowed their families to join them.

It has been under review due to repeated concerns that the system could be exploited because not enough background checks are made on applicants.

The Home Office said the visa had in some cases “given rise to security concerns, including people acquiring their wealth illegitimately and being associated with wider corruption.”

Priti Patel
Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, on Oct. 5, 2021. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Announcing the decision, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “I have zero tolerance for abuse of our immigration system. Under my New Plan for Immigration, 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.”

She said this is “just the start” of the government’s renewed crackdown on fraud and illicit finance.

The government will be publishing a fraud action plan, and the forthcoming Economic Crime Bill will crack down on people abusing Britain’s financial institutions, she added.

The announcement comes amid concerns about Russia’s influence in the UK as tensions continue about a potential invasion of Ukraine.

Last month, the British government warned that Russian oligarchs linked to the Kremlin may be subject to sanctions if Ukraine was attacked.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Jan. 30 that the British government will change sanctions regulations to target “any company of interest to the Kremlin and the regime in Russia” and that “there would be nowhere to hide for Putin’s oligarchs.”

Labour former minister Chris Bryant has previously called for a full review of the visa scheme as he accused the government of “giving out golden visas to dodgy Russian oligarchs” and said the system is used as a “backdoor loophole” to funnel dirty money into the UK.

In 2018 a report published by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons accused ministers of risking national security by “turning a blind eye” to the Russian “dirty money” flowing through the City of London.

Concerns over the practice of issuing golden visas were raised during this inquiry which found that despite the outcry over the Novichok nerve agent attack in Salisbury, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies were continuing to use London as a base for their “corrupt assets.”

PA Media contributed to this report.