Investor visa scheme halted in money laundering crackdown
Ministers are halting a "gold-plated" visa scheme offering foreign investors a fast-track to settling in the UK, as part of a crackdown on financial crime.
Tier 1 investor visas were introduced in 2008 to encourage rich people from outside the EU to invest in the UK.
A £2m investment bought a visa and indefinite leave to remain after five years. But concerns were raised the scheme was being used to launder money.
Its suspension will end after an audit process is introduced, ministers say.
"We will not tolerate people who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the system," said Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes.
More than 1,000 Tier 1 investor visas were granted in the year ending September 2018.
The Home Office said reforms to the scheme would include applicants having to provide comprehensive audits of all their financial and business interests.
These audits will have to be carried out by suitably regulated UK auditing firms which have no involvement with any qualifying investments or the visa application.
Applicants will also be required to prove that they have had control of the required £2 million for at least two years.
Other measures will aim to increase the benefits to UK companies by excluding investment in Government bonds and strengthening the rules to ensure investments are made in active and trading UK companies.
There will also be a new provision for pooled investments, which are supported by Government, to back projects with a clear economic benefit to the UK, such as supporting small and medium enterprises.
The changes to the scheme are part of wider reforms to the visa system.
The Home Office is also replacing the Tier 1 Graduate and Entrepreneur visa routes with a Start-up visa route, announced in June, and the Innovator visa route.