The UK Tier 1 investor visa is attracting wealthy Chinese and Hong Kong nationals despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research. Real estate firm Astons found that rich investors from China and Hong Kong were ‘most likely’ to head to the UK during the pandemic.
Hong Kong citizens in particular have been heading to the UK in large numbers following the launch of the British National (Overseas) (BNO) visa in January. According to the latest data, 34,000 Hong Kong nationals have applied for the exclusive BNO visa scheme in 2021.
The managing director of Astons, Arthur Sarkisian, said: “The offer of the BNO visa has spurred a large migration of Hong Kong nationals to British shores.”
Not confined to BNO visa
“However, this interest hasn’t been confined to the BNO visa alone and Hong Kong’s wealthy have continued to show strong interest in the UK Tier 1 Investor visa throughout the pandemic as an alternative path when relocating,” Mr Sarkisian added.
Despite rising Tier 1 visa applications from China and Hong Kong, the overall number of applicants has slumped by 20% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to pre-COVID levels. The coronavirus pandemic has brought worldwide travel to a halt for more than 12 months.
The number of applications for children accompanying Tier 1 investor applicants has also dropped by 37%.
On a financial level, there has been a 41% decline in the value of applications, with the Tier 1 investor visa program generating £382 million less than it did prior to the coronavirus outbreak. However, the visa route has still raked in £522 million since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The super-rich, in particular, have continued to enter the UK on Tier 1 investor visas, bypassing packed commercial flights and arriving in Britain on private jets.
Nationals of Hong Kong and China account for an average of 24% of all main Tier 1 investor visa applications each quarter. However, the market share of Hong Kong applicants using the Tier 1 investor visa has dropped by nine percentage points, dropping from 16% to 7%, according to Astons’ research.
Sarkisian said: “This interest has been driven largely by the quality of life on offer for an applicant’s dependents, with outstanding UK schools one of the driving factors for many.
“Despite an overall drop in UK Tier 1 visa activity as a result of the pandemic, we expect this interest to grow as travel restrictions start to lift and we return to a greater sense of normality,” he added.
Tier 1 investor visa ups and downs
The Tier 1 investor visa program has had many ups and downs in recent years. In 2018, the visa route was incorrectly reported to be suspended by the Home Office, with the government agency quick to backtrack a few days later saying that the suspension was ‘wrongly announced’.
However, in March 2020, it was reported that there had been a rise in the number of Tier 1 investor visa applications from so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries.
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