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UK Freezes Pay-for-Visa Scheme Popular With Russians

Wealthy investors seeking EU residency need not worry – a dozen other countries still issue 'golden visas.' 6 December 2018

The UK is temporarily suspending a visa investment program that has been a route to permanent residence and British citizenship for wealthy foreigners.


The Tier 1 investor visa program will be frozen starting tomorrow until new measures against money laundering and organized crime are in place next year, according to a Home Office statement cited by Bloomberg.


The scheme is especially popular with Russian and Chinese investors, and could be most damaging to the many Russian oligarchs who have made London a second home. Relations with Moscow turned icy following the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, however. One oligarch to feel the sting is Chelsea soccer team owner Roman Abramovich, who is now an Israeli citizen after failing to renew his UK visa, Bloomberg says.


In order to be eligible to apply for the Tier 1 visa, applicants had to have at least 2 million pounds available for investment in the UK, The Moscow Times writes.


London is a popular holiday destination with Russian tourists. Image via Duncan Stephen/ flickr commons.


The visa freeze may drive potential investors to other countries such as Spain where “golden visa” schemes operate. Spain allows foreigners who invest more than 500,000 euros to become permanent residents of the country, El Pais writes.


In the European Union, 13 countries currently offer permanent residency, and even citizenship in some cases, to big investors.



  • Applicants for a Spanish “golden visa” are required to show documentation proving the origin of all the invested funds. In addition, Spanish anti-money laundering laws that make everyone involved responsible provide an incentive for suspicious activity to be reported.


  • As of early 2017, almost 60 percent (about 1.3 billion euros) of the funds invested in Spain as part of the program came from Chinese and Russian millionaires, El Pais reported. The number of Russians receiving residency within the program has since dropped.
Compiled by Orsolya Liddiard
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