The influential Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons has recently released a report in which it is asking the United Kingdom Government to petition the European Commission on the ‘extremely worrying’ Tier 1 visa scheme. The Committee headed by Sir David Metcalf, went on to state that the scheme is akin to selling citizenship. Under the controversial scheme, an individual is granted a visa for three years and four months with an option to apply for an extension of two more years. All the individual has to do is pledge to invest a million pounds in the United Kingdom. This scheme entitles the visa holder to work, study and enjoy all the public services in the United Kingdom.
The kicker is that the individual can then apply for citizenship if he or she has stayed in the United Kingdom for a period of five years. Since the visa allows a maximum stay of five years and four months including the extension, this is an easy feat to achieve. The whole process can be expedited if the person chooses to invest ten million pounds instead of one million pounds. In this case, the person is entitles to apply for citizenship only after an all too short two years. This serves as an extremely easy way for wealthy individuals into the United Kingdom. It also enables a large number of affluent criminals to set up shop in the United Kingdom.
Sir David Metcalf has rightly criticized the system, saying that it is just a way of ‘selling indefinite leave to remain’ in the United Kingdom. He has, on several occasions, pointed out that this visa provides no benefit to the United Kingdom, while bestowing the applicant with a horde of services and facilities, all paid for by the taxes collected from regular citizens. The applicants have also found a great way to evade the rule requiring them to invest a million pounds of their money. They use the very safe and reliable government bonds to store their money. The only downside of this method is that their money does not earn any interest for the period that it is invested in government bonds. The upside of course, is a hundred percent guarantee of a full return. They get back the exact amount they put in and of course a brand new citizenship.
This scheme has been the subject of many a heated debates in the House of Commons ever since its introduction. People have rallied against it saying that it keeps out the ‘best and brightest’, instead, allowing in the rich, no matter how useless they may prove to British society. The visa scheme has also often been likened to selling the citizenship of the United Kingdom and is viewed very unfavorably by a majority of the public. Supporters try to defend the scheme claiming that it funds vital research and healthcare facilities. The ground reality though is that the gilts offer an easy way out to the investors, preventing any real investment.