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Significant changes announced for UK Tier-1 visas

The UK government has made some significant changes affecting Tier-1 visas. These apply to immigration application under the following Tier 1 visa categories:

The changes were implemented on 6th November 2014.

Tier 1 (Investor) visas

Radical changes have been implemented for the Tier 1 (Investor) category, with the overall aim of increasing funding to the UK economy. Investors are no longer able to put part of the investment in property or into UK bank accounts. These represent the greatest changes to the Tier 1 investor category since this visa category was first introduced.

  • The minimum investment has increased to £2million, in line with the UK rate of inflation. This has replaced the previous investment of £1million, which had been the investment requirement since this visa category opened. The government hope that by increasing the investment requirement it will help boost the UK economy.
  • The full amount must now be invested into a UK company or UK government bonds. The previous requirements were that investors invest 75% in approved investments and then hold the remaining 25% in a UK bank account or invest it into property. Now they will have to invest 100% of the £2million investment in approved investments. Obviously, this means that fewer people will qualify for this visa category.
  • Tier 1 (Investor) visa holders will no longer have to 'top up' their investments if the market value falls below the threshold. As long the initial investment is £2million or more then there is no need to invest further funds. That is, of course, unless part of the portfolio is sold.
  • Investors will no longer be able to use funds secured from a loan. This will only apply to new applicants and will not affect any existing Tier-1 visa holders who have already taken out a loan to raise funds for their investment, although this represents only a small percentage of Tier-1 investors.
  • Current Tier 1 (Investor) visa holders who have already migrated to the UK via this route will not be affected by these changes when applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
  • Immigration officers will now have the power to refuse a Tier 1 (investor) application in a number of situations where they believe that the applicant does not control the £2million investment fund; or where there is evidence to suggest the funds were obtained unlawfully. Applications may also be refused where the character of the applicant is doubtful due to unlawful conduct or party associations, which is considered to be not in the public interest.
  • The Home Office is also due to review the types of investment that will be offered to applicants, which would deliver the greatest benefits to the UK. They are also considering removing the Government bond investment option. These further changes will be introduced in April 2015.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visas

Changes have also been introduced to the Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) visa category. UK immigration says that this is in order to attract more applicants, as at the moment very few migrants meet the requirements for this immigration route. It seems unlikely though that these changes will have a great impact on the number of people who qualify for this visa category.

  • The main change is that Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa holders are now granted an initial visa for the UK for five years, instead of the previous three. They will therefore not have to apply for an extension before being eligible for UK indefinite leave to remain.
  • The government have also removed English language requirements for this visa category, in order to encourage more applications. However those wishing to apply for ILR or permanent residence will still be subject to an English language requirement.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visas

There have also been a few minor technical changes introduced to the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa category.

  • The main change is that applicants must hold the required funds for this visa within the UK, if they are applying from within the UK. This is to help the Government verify that the funds are genuine.
  • There are also a small number of technical changes being introduced relating to the use of joint bank accounts or multiple bank accounts for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa applications. These changes only apply to new applicants, and so existing Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa holders will not be affected. will keep you updated of any further changes as they happen. If you believe any of these changes may affect your visa, and wish to be referred to an immigration adviser, then please don't hesitate to contact our London office on 0344 991 9222 for further details.