U.K. Should Introduce $4.2 Million Investment Visas, Panel Says

U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May should set up a new “premium” route for wealthy investors, with 100 visas a year auctioned off at a reserve price of 2.5 million pounds ($4.2 million), an advisory panel recommended.

The Migration Advisory Committee, which is made up of five independent economists and a representative of the Commission for Employment and Skills, proposed replacing the current so-called “higher investor routes” that require investments of 5 million pounds and 10 million pounds as they are “hugely underused.”

“We have focused our attention on how U.K. residents may gain from this migration route; we express some healthy skepticism regarding the value to U.K. residents of high net worth individuals coming to the U.K.,” the panel’s chairman, David Metcalf, told reporters in London today. “When people say: ’Isn’t it awful to sell visas?’ -- it’s better than giving them away, which is what we are doing now.”

The committee also recommended the government improves incentives for foreign investors to buy into financial instruments other than government bonds. Options include infrastructure bonds to improve roads or other amenities, Metcalf said. Venture capital projects should also be considered, he said.

The new premium route would benefit from relaxed residency requirements, halving to 90 days a year the amount of time an individual has to remain resident in the U.K. It would lead to the settlement of individuals, not U.K. citizenship.

The auction of premium route visas would be conducted via sealed offers, with a bid of 2.5 million pounds comprised of an investment of 2 million pounds by the applicant plus a gift of 500,000 pounds donated to the government, designed to be given to philanthropic causes such as charities “or basketball courts,” Metcalf said. The market may settle on a higher price for the visas, he said.

The panel also recommended doubling the minimum threshold for investors on “standard route” visas to 2 million pounds, uprating a price that has not changed since 1994.

May would need to accept the panel’s advice before the changes could be introduced. The Home Office did not have an immediate response to the recommendations when contacted by phone.

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