The United Kingdom offers a unique visa option to migrants. This is called the Tier 1 visa or the investor visa. It simply means that any person can apply for a visa in the United Kingdom by investing 1 million pounds in the UK. This visa, according to the official website of the UK Immigrations Authority, would be valid for a period of 3 years and 4 months. This time can be extended by another 2 years. Under the rights accorded by this visa, an individual can work or study. Also, he or she can invest even more money and apply for settlement rights. 10 million pounds allow the individual to petition for settlement rights after 2 years and 5 million pounds allow him or her to petition after 3 years.
While this scheme was introduced hoping to attract investors and capital into the country, it has not really been able to live up to its expectations. A recent report released by the Migration Advisory Committee has revealed that migrants vying for this visa have found a great loophole in the system. These individuals choose to invest in gilts. Gilts are nothing but bonds issued by the government of UK. Since these securities are issued by the government, they are very low risk and can be sold back to the government after the set period is over. This creates a system where the individuals don’t truly invest in the United Kingdom; they just keep the money with the government.
It is equivalent to using the UK government as a safe. Once the stipulated time period is over, they can withdraw their money by selling back the bonds. In other words, they just loan the government money at a zero interest rate. Sir David Metcalfe, the chairman of the MAC has thus advised the government to start auctioning these visas. Controversial though it seems, it may actually prove to be a very good long term solution. The proposal is to auction around a 100 visas every year with a starting bid of 2.5 million pounds. Also, the report advises to raise the minimum investment from 1 million pounds to 2 million pounds.
The report justifies this by stating how little the citizens of UK actually get from the current scheme when compared to the benefits accorded to migrants. The migrants awarded these visas need not even be able to speak in English and they are entitled to bring their spouses and children. They reap the benefits of a well – developed education system, advanced healthcare along with the general benefits that come from living in a developed country like connectivity, cleaner environs, lower crime rates, etc. The citizens of Britain on the contrary get naught to show for the ‘investment’. They make no returns whatsoever on the investment and in effect, the money is useless.
Staunch nationalists however feel that this will create a very unpleasant ‘eBay – like’ marketplace scenario. They are very against the scheme. Another sect of Brits against this proposal are the immigration lawyers. However, Sir David has called these individuals biased and claimed that they are motivated by the fees they make from foreign clients, which they stand to lose should the auction be implemented.
The ultimate decision to implement or reject the scheme rests in the hands of the Home Secretary Theresa May. The Home Ministry has, at this point, thanked the MAC for its report, but is otherwise mum about the proposal. Only time will tell what happens.