The United Kingdom started offering an immigration route for foreign investors in 1994. In 2008, the UK introduced a new point-based system that included Tier 1 Investor and Tier 1 Entrepreneur visas. In 2019, British immigration authorities stopped processing applications for Tier 1 Entrepreneur visas, allowing to extend only the already issued visas. For the investors who wanted to launch their own business in the UK, a new visa type was introduced – Innovator visa.
Since long-term visas were introduced, immigration rules for non-EEA investors have changed several times, increasing some requirements and slackening others.
If you spend several years in the UK on Tier 1 Investor or Innovator visas, you will be able to obtain permanent residence (or ILR – Indefinite Leave to Remain). Then, in a year, you, as a permanent resident, will be able to apply for British citizenship. Let’s see what you need to do to get British citizenship.
Benefits of investing in the UK
As one of the largest financial centres, the UK attracts entrepreneurs from all over the world, including those who are ready to invest into British economy to obtain the right to work and live in the UK.
Foreign investors know that the UK economy is always among the top five economies with the most attractive investment options. British economy is resilient to financial crisis. Its century-old entrepreneurial traditions, developed transport infrastructure, government support of small and medium-sized enterprises and vast markets offer ample opportunities for making good profit.
What other benefits, apart from financial ones, can foreign investors gain in the UK?
- Comfort and secure living conditions.
- Favourable taxation regime for the UK residents.
- Top school and higher education.
- High-quality healthcare and social guarantees.
- Stable banking system that allows to secure and increase your savings.
- British passport in 5–6 years for an investor and their family.
- Visa-free access to 184 countries.
Differences between Tier 1 Investor and Innovator visas
The main difference between Tier 1 Investor and Innovator visas is that investors can buy shares or bonds of almost any British company. Innovators, alone or with other entrepreneurs, can invest only in their own business that they plan to develop in the UK. For your information, we have compiled a table comparing Tier 1 Investor and Innovator visas.
|Tier 1 Investor visa||Innovator visa|
|Investors must invest at least £2,000,000 into shares or bonds of existing British companies.||Innovators must have at least £50,000 to invest into their own company in the UK.|
|Investors can work, study, or do nothing in the UK.||Innovators can only work in the company in which they have invested.|
|Investors do not need to pass the language test and confirm their education and professional skills.||Innovators must prove sufficient English knowledge, education and experience.|
|Depending on the investment amount, investors can obtain British permanent residence (ILR) in 2, 3 or 5 years.||Innovators can apply for permanent residence (ILR) in 3 years if their business has developed to a certain level.|
|Investors have full control over their invested funds and can sell and buy shares of British companies, given that the initial investment amount does not change. As permanent residents, investors can later recover their whole investment.||Before innovators get permanent residence (ILR), they cannot withdraw the invested money from their companies. Otherwise, they will not be able to extend their visa.|
Applicants for Tier 1 Investor and Innovator visas must comply with the following requirements:
- The main applicant must be at least 18 years old.
- All applicants must be in good Investors from some countries have to provide a negative tuberculosis test.
- Applicants must have clean criminal and immigration records.
- The main applicant can add dependents to their application: spouses, partners and minor children.
- Innovators need to prove English knowledge at level B2. Investors do not need to pass the language test.
Two routes are available leading to UK citizenship by investment:
1. Tier 1 Investor visa
To obtain Tier 1 Investor visa and later apply for permanent residence (ILR – Indefinite Leave to Remain), you need to invest at least £2,000,000 into British companies (irrespective of the number of dependants). You will be able to apply for permanent residence in a few years, depending on your investment amount:
- £2,000,000 to obtain permanent residence in 5 years;
- £5,000,000 to obtain permanent residence in 3 years;
- £10,000,000 to obtain permanent residence in 2 years.
Additional fees and charges apply.
You can apply for residence within the UK, when switching from another allowed category, or outside the country. Initial visa is granted for 3 years and 4 months and subject to extension for 2 years.
Even if you become UK permanent resident in 2 years, you will be able to apply for British citizenship only in 5 years. If you contribute the minimum investment amount of £2,000,000, you will be able to obtain British passport in 6 years.
2. Innovator visa
To obtain an Innovator visa, you need to invest at least £50,000 into your own British company, become its CEO and bear responsibility for its development until you get permanent residence (ILR).
There is one more important requirement. Your business plan must be assessed and endorsed by a relevant body. If the endorsing body loses its license and withdraws its endorsement, you must reapply to another similar body from the government list.
You can set up your company by yourself or with other entrepreneurs. If you form a team, each investor must contribute at least £50,000. Other fees and charges apply.
You can apply for Innovator visa outside the UK or within the UK, when switching from another allowed category. Initial visa is granted for 3 years and 4 months and subject to extension for 3 years for an unlimited number of times.
As an innovator, you and your family can apply for permanent residence (ILR) in 3 years and get British passport in 5 years.
As it was mentioned above, investors can get permanent residence (ILR) under the accelerated procedure in 2 or 3 years, but they and their families will be able to naturalise only in 5 years. Standard procedure usually takes 6 years, and two main requirements must be met: you must live in the UK for 5 years and be a permanent resident for 1 year.
Requirements for an applicant
- You must spend no more than 450 days outside the UK during 5 years prior to applying for naturalisation, and no more than 90 days in the last 12 months.
- All adult applicants must prove their knowledge of English and pass the Life in the UK test.
- Applicants must have no criminal or administrative offenses.
British citizenship by investment with Imperial & Legal
Imperial & Legal advisors have extensive experience in successfully delivering various immigration cases for British and EU migrants. Our experts provide complex legal support in getting and extending visas, obtaining an indefinite leave to remain and applying for a British passport. We can also make your relocation to a new country comfortable and hassle-free and help you to develop your business, open bank accounts and plan taxes.
To get British passport, you need to go through 6 steps:
We can arrange a consultation with an Imperial & Legal advisor either in our office or remotely by telephone or WhatsApp/Zoom/Skype. Our experts will help you to choose the best immigration route based on your individual goals and circumstances and provide you with all the necessary details. Once we sign a service agreement, our advisors will assess your situation to eliminate risks of refusal at the first stage.
#2. Prepare documents and submit application
Our advisors will prepare all the necessary documents to be submitted with your visa application. All the documents must be translated into English. Depending on the visa type, you must provide different information to have your application accepted.
#3. Wait for your application to be processed
Timeframe: 1–2 months
Home Office accesses your application and makes a decision. Sometimes, applicants are invited for an interview. If you want to accelerate the application processing, you can pay extra for this. However, this procedure is not available for all countries.
#4. Get visa and move to the UK
Timeframe: 2–4 months
Our experts will make your relocation to the UK comfortable and hassle-free. They will help you to find a property to rent or buy, a school or a university for your children, register your company to conduct business in the UK, open a bank account, keep financial accounts, plan and pay taxes, etc.
#5. Extend your visa and apply for ILR
Timeframe: 2–5 years
Depending on the visa type and some other concurrent factors, you will need to either extend your visa, or get settled status. Our advisors will prepare and submit all the necessary documents and help you to prepare for the English test and the Life in the UK test that you need to pass to obtain permanent residence (ILR).
#6. Get British passport
Timeframe: 5–6 years
Depending on the visa type, in 1–3 years of permanent residence (ILR) and 5 years of stay in the UK, you will be able to apply for naturalisation. Our advisors will prepare all the necessary documents. After submission of all the documents and swearing an oath, you become a UK citizen and get British passport.
FAQ about British citizenship by investment
How long can I extend my Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa for if I got it before 29 March 2019?
When your initial visa for 3 years and 4 months has expires (provided that you applied for Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa outside the UK), you can extend it for 2 years. Alternatively, you can apply for permanent residence (ILR) if your business has significantly developed and you can prove this to immigration authorities.
What is the easiest and quickest immigration route to obtain British citizenship?
Tier 1 Investor visa offers the easiest and quickest immigration route. You do not need to get endorsement letter for your business plan, learn English or prove your professional skills. Depending on the investment amount, you will be able to get permanent residence (ILR) in 2–5 years. However, you will need to pass the English test and the Life in the UK test for this.
When does an entrepreneur with Tier 1 Investor visa have to learn English?
Investors need to prove their knowledge of English to apply for permanent residence (ILR) in 2–5 years. Applicants must prove that they are well integrated into British society. They must be capable of simple conversations in English and know the details of British daily life.
How can innovators get endorsement of their business plan from a relevant body?
The official website of the British government outlines 3 main requirements that your business idea must meet to get endorsement from a relevant body:
- Be innovative. You cannot get an Innovator visa if you invest into an already existing business.
- Be viable. All goods and services produced by your company must differ from already existing offers on the British market.
- Be scalable. Your business plan must contain potential for Innovators, on their part, must have enough experience, education and resources to implement it.
How can innovators register their company in the UK?
In comparison with other countries, in the UK, it is not difficult to register a new company. It can even be done online. The British government is interested in the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, so the government control is minimum.
It does not mean, however, that anyone can register a company in the UK and conduct business without supervision from the regulating bodies. Innovators setting up a company need a registered address, a bank account, secretary services and, when required, they need to register with the HMRC for VAT.
All the above challenges can be successfully resolved with the business packages offered by Imperial & Legal. Our advisors will help you to register your company and avoid problems with the Companies House and HMRC.
Is second citizenship allowed in the UK?
There is no law in the UK that forbids to have second citizenship, so you will not be asked to denounce your first nationality. Though you are guaranteed complete confidentiality, Imperial & Legal advisors suggest that you should inform the authorities in your home country that you have a second passport if it is required