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A complete guide to the Tier 1 investor visa

Investing in the UK, through a Tier 1 (Investor) visa can not only lead to excellent investment opportunities but also accelerated UK settlement. Our business immigration solicitors answer your questions on the Investor visa as a route to UK settlement in our comprehensive guide.

What is a Tier 1 (Investor) visa?

The Tier 1 Investor visa category may be a suitable route for UK visa entry, leading to UK settlement, if you are in a position to make a substantial financial investment in the UK.  To qualify for a UK Investor visa you need to have access to at least £2 million and be willing to invest the funds in approved qualifying UK investments.

What are the advantages of an Investor visa?

To commit at least £2 million into the UK you will want to know the advantages of a Tier 1 (Investor) visa in comparison to other types of visa, such as the work visa or entrepreneur visas, for example, the Start-up visa or the Innovator visa.

If you secure an Investor visa you can:

  • Live in the UK and the visa leads to settlement provided you meet the settlement eligibility criteria.
  • You can settle in the UK after five years on an Investor visa but accelerated settlement, after two or three years, is possible if you invest more than the minimum figure of £2 million.
  • You don’t need to meet an English language requirement to secure the visa.
  • You can study in the UK.
  • You can work in the UK (save for limited types of jobs) without needing a work visa or a sponsoring employer.
  • You can set up your own business in the UK free of the requirement to be endorsed by a Home Office approved endorsing body in the Start-up visa and Innovator visa categories and without the need to meet the business criteria of innovation, viability, and scalability.
  • You can be accompanied by dependant family members provided they meet the eligibility criteria for a dependant visa.

What are the eligibility criteria for an Investor visa?

To be eligible to apply for a Tier 1 (Investor) visa you must:

  • Be at least eighteen years old.
  • Have at least £2 million to invest in the UK.
  • Be able to prove that the investment money belongs to either you or to your partner.
  • Have an open bank account at a UK regulated bank and the bank must have carried out all the required due diligence checks and Know Your Customer (KYC) enquiries.

The points-based immigration system and Investor visas

The Investor visa is open to non-EEA nationals who meet the eligibility criteria. After the end of free movement of EU citizens on the 31 December 2020 the route will also open to EU citizens. They will be subject to the same UK immigration controls as non-EEA nationals, unless the EU citizen entered the UK prior to the 31 December 2020 and is eligible to apply for pre-settled status or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme or, for other reasons, isn’t subject to UK immigration controls.

The Investor visa is a points based visa and to qualify for the visa you need to secure at least seventy five points. Points are easily met as the seventy five points are based on an applicant having at least £2 million to invest and meeting the Investor visa rules on ownership of the funds.

What are the rules on investor funds?

Your investment funds must be:

  1. Held in one or more regulated financial institutions.
  2. Disposable in the UK (free and available for you to spend and not tied up). The funds can be held overseas when you make your Investor visa application.

Can you own investment funds jointly?

To secure an Investor visa you can rely on investment funds that are owned either jointly with or solely by:

  • Your husband or wife
  • Your civil partner
  • Your unmarried or same-sex partner

However, to qualify for the visa, you must have:

  • Unrestricted rights to transfer and dispose of the money.
  • Permission from your partner to have control of this money in the UK.
  • Be able to provide evidence of this and your relationship if requested.

You (or your partner) must be the beneficial owner of the funds and not be holding the investments on behalf of anyone else.

Do the investment funds need to be in sterling?

 Your investment funds don’t have to be:

  1. In the UK at the date of your application.
  2. In sterling. However, in your application you need to convert the value of your investments into sterling.

Can investor funds already be invested in the UK at the date of the Investor visa application?

Many applicants for Investor visas already hold substantial assets and property in the UK and rightly want to know if they can use those assets as investor funds rather than have to commit another £2 million of investments into the UK. The Immigration Rules say:  

  • You are permitted to use investments made in the UK within the twelve months immediately before the date of your visa application, provided that the investments are held in a UK regulated financial institution.
  • You cannot use assets or possessions such as your home or other residential or commercial property as evidence of your funds for investment.
  • You (or your partner) must be the beneficial owner of the funds and not holding the investments on behalf of anyone else.
  • You must be able to prove the source of the funds in accordance with the Immigration Rules.

The Immigration Rules on proving the source of Investor visa funds

If you have held your investment funds for less than two years then you will need to prove the source of your funds. The Immigration Rules are clear that you are not required to have held the funds for two or more years provided that you can establish the source of the money.

If you have held your investment funds for less than two years the Home Office says you will qualify for an Investor visa if the source of your funds was:

  • A gift received by you or your partner in the two years prior to the date of your visa application; or
  • The proceeds of sale of assets (such as your business or property) within the two years before the date of your visa application; or
  • Money held in your business or the business of your partner; or
  • An inheritance under a Will that was received within the two years prior to your making the visa application; or
  • The proceeds of a divorce settlement received within the two years before the date of your application; or
  • A financial award or winnings; or
  • Any other source of money provided that the source of the money is documented and proved.

If you have held your proposed visa investment funds for at least two years, then the Investor visa application process is a bit more straight forward as you won't be required to provide documentary evidence of the original source of your funds. But you will still need to satisfy the Home Office official assessing your visa application that your investment funds are lawful.

If you are granted an Investor visa then the Immigration Rules say that you need to use the planned investment funds and make what is referred to as a ‘qualifying investment’ within ninety days of entering the Investor visa category.

Moving investment funds to the UK

The international movement of substantial investment funds can be complicated. It is therefore important that you, or your financial advisors, carefully consider anyinternational financial sanctions regimes which may affect your ability to move money to the UK. You will need to provide evidence with your visa application that you have sought and gained any necessary approval to transfer your investment funds to the UK. If you are subject to financial sanctions, and you don’t provide the necessary additional proof from the relevant official body that you are able to transfer funds to the UK your visa application will be refused.

The Investor visa requirement to have an open UK bank accountAs part of the investor visa process, you must have opened an account with a UK regulated bank for the purposes of investing at least £2million in the UK. You will need to produce evidence that you have a bank account and the evidence provided is usually a letter, issued by an authorised official of a UK regulated bank, on their official letter-headed paper which: 

  • Is dated within three months immediately before the date of your application.
  • States your name and the bank account number.
  • Confirms that you have opened an account with that bank for the purposes of investing at least £2million in the UK.

The bank must also be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for the purposes of accepting deposits for your bank account to qualify as suitable under the Investor visa Immigration Rules.

What investments qualify as suitable investment funds for an Investor visa?

In recent years the government has tightened up on what an Investor visa applicant can invest in and qualify for the Investor visa. Funds may be invested in various ways including:

  • Share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies. However, the company cannot be principally engaged in property investment, property management or property development.
  • Pooled investment vehicles that receive government funding or funding from a government agency.

Prior to March 2019, an Investor visa applicant could invest in government bonds but these are no longer treated as qualifying investments if you applied for your visa after the 29 March 2019.

What is an active and trading company for Investor visa purposes?

The Investor visa policy guidance states that an ‘active and trading UK registered company’ means a trading company that is:

  • In operation – the company can't be a dormant or non-trading company.
  • Able to demonstrate that it is trading through transactions in their business bank account statements.
  • Based in the UK with its registered office or head office in the UK.

What investments do not qualify as acceptable for an Investor visa application?

Not all types of investments are acceptable under the Investor visa route. The following are not permitted:

  • Investments made via an offshore company or trust.
  • Investments in open-ended investment companies, investment trust companies or pooled investment vehicles.
  • Investments in companies mainly engaged in property investment, property management or property development. Companies that make profit through renting property for income are not accepted. Construction firms and companies that manufacture goods or retailers who own their own premises are permitted.
  • Investments by using deposits with a bank, building society or other enterprise whose normal course of business includes the acceptance of deposits.
  • ISAs, premium bonds and saving certificates issued by the National Savings and Investment Agency.

The purpose of the Immigration Rules on the use of investment funds is to try to ensure that those investors willing to invest in the UK do so in a way that is most likely to help the UK economy.

Can you apply for an Investor visa from within the UK?

The Immigration Rules say that you can submit your visa application from inside or outside of the UK. However, if you want to apply to extend your Investor visa then your extension application can only be made from within the UK.

If you chose to apply for your Investor visa from outside the UK then your application can be prepared and submitted online. You’ll need to have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre in order to get a biometric residence permit (BRP) as part of your application and you will need to collect your BRP from your chosen participating post office within ten days of arriving into the UK.

Whether you apply from within or outside the UK, priority services may be available to speed up the processing of your Investor visa application.

What documents are needed for an Investor visa application?

Tier 1 Investor visa applicants must provide several documents with their application, these include:

  • Current passport and/or other travel documents.
  • A separate passport photograph.
  • A clear tuberculosis (TB) test result letter if you are from one of the countries on the Home Office’s TB testing list.
  • A criminal record certificate from any country you have lived in for more than one year in the past ten years.
  • Evidence of funds including ownership and UK bank account.

The paperwork sounds relatively straight forward but frequently applications are refused because the applicant hasn’t fully complied with all the financial paperwork and the evidencing of funds.

Tips on how to make a successful Investor visa application

When it comes to Investor visa applications the key to success is ensuring all your financial paperwork is in order. That advice applies equally to your first Investor visa application and any subsequent application to extend your Investor visa. That is because, once you are in the UK, it can be easy for you or your financial advisors, to start re-investing funds in non-authorised investments leading to difficulties being encountered with the Home Office when you come to renew your application.

The best advice is to ensure that your visa application is checked and submitted by a business immigration solicitor and that you, or your financial advisor follow the Home Office guidance about what investments you can invest in during your visa. If you aren’t certain about the Home Office guidance and strict rules it is best to get further legal advice from a business immigration solicitor so you don’t encounter difficulties when you come to apply to extend your Investor visa.

What is the processing time for an Investor visa application?

The Home Office advises that the processing time for an Investor visa can be up to three months, but much depends on whether the application is made from the UK or not and whether you use the Home Office premium service to ensure your application is processed quickly. Use of a premium service can result in your application being determined within a matter of days provided that your application is completed correctly with the right supporting paperwork.

How long does an Investor visa last for?

You can apply to come to the UK for an initial period of three years and four months on an Investor visa. If you are switching into this visa category from within the UK, you will be granted leave for three years.

Towards the end of your visa, you can apply to extend it in the UK for a further two years providing you meet the criteria for an extension application. Whether you need to do so will depend on the amount of your investment as you may be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain under the accelerated settlement rules.

How do you apply for an extension of your Investor visa?

In order to obtain an extension to your leave to remain as a Tier 1 (Investor) visa holder you will need to secure seventy five points under the points based immigration system. This can be achieved through your investment monies being held in authorised investments.

The specific requirements that you will need to meet to qualify for a Tier 1 Investor visa extension will depend upon whether your initial Tier 1 Investor visa was granted:

  • Between the 6 November 2014 and 28 March 2019; or
  • On or after 29 March 2019.

If you successfully applied for your Investor visa between the 6 November 2014 and 28 March 2019, you will be able to extend your stay on an Investor visa if:

  • You invested not less than £2 million in the UK by way of UK Government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies.
  • You made your investment either within three months of your entry to the UK, if you were granted entry clearance as a Tier 1 Investor and there is evidence to establish your date of entry to the UK or within three months of the date of the grant of entry clearance or leave to remain as a Tier 1 Investor or no earlier than twelve months before the date of the application which led to your grant of leave as a Tier 1 (Investor) visa holder.
  • You have maintained the level of investment for the whole of the visa leave.

You will need to submit your Investor visa extension application before the 6 April 2023.

If you applied for your Tier 1 Investor visa on or after the 29 March 2019, you will need to satisfy the following requirements in order to qualify for an extension of stay:

  • You must have invested not less than £2 million in the UK by way of UK share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies.
  • You must have made your investment either within three months of your entry to the UK, if you were granted entry clearance as a Tier 1 Investor and there is evidence to establish your date of entry to the UK or within three months of the date of the grant of entry clearance or leave to remain on an Investor visa or no earlier than twelve months before the date of the application which led to your first Investor visa leave.
  • You have maintained the level of investment for the whole of the remaining period of your visa.

Any visa extension application should be made prior to the expiry date of your existing Investor visa to avoid you being classed as an overstayer by Home Office officials. This will adversely affect your immigration record. If you are not eligible to apply for accelerated settlement and you don’t want to apply for an extension of your Investor visa a business immigration solicitor can advise you about your best alternative visa options if you want to remain in the UK after the expiry of your Investor visa. 

 Can you settle in the UK after entry on an Investor visa?

One of the key advantages of the Investor visa is its flexibility and the potential for it to lead to settlement or even accelerated settlement in the UK. 

Tier 1 Investor visa holders can apply to settle in the UK provided that they meet the general eligibility criteria and the residence requirement. There are accelerated routes to securing Indefinite Leave to Remain if you invested more than £2million pounds as part of your visa application process.

The accelerated settlement rules are:

Investment amountMinimum residence period before being eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain 
£2 millionFive years
£3 millionThree years
£10 millionTwo years

What are the eligibility criteria for Indefinite Leave to Remain on an Investor visa?

You may be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK if you entered the UK on an Investor visa and have spent either two, three or five years in the UK , depending on the amount of your investment and when your visa was granted.

If your Investor visa was granted before the 6 November 2014 then when applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain you will need to meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • You have not less than £1 million of money of your own that is under your own control and is in the UK.
  • You have invested not less than 75% of your capital in the UK through UK Government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies and you have invested the balance of the capital through the purchase of assets or by keeping the monies in a UK regulated financial institution.
  • The investment was made no earlier than twelve months before the date of your first Investor visa application.
  • You have maintained the level of investment funds during your Investor visa (for example, you have not transferred some of the funds out of the UK or placed them in non-qualifying investments).
  • You have spent a continuous period of either two years with maintained investments of at least £10 million, or three years with maintained investments of at least £5 million, or five years with maintained investments of at least £1 million lawfully in the UK on your Investor visa. And you meet the residence requirement of not being absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any twelve-month period during the Investor visa period.
  • You have sufficient knowledge of the English language and Life in the UK (this requirement doesn’t have to be met if you are aged over sixty five).

To qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain on this route you will need to submit your Indefinite Leave to Remain application before the 6 April 2022.

If your Investor visa was obtained between the 6 November 2014 and 28 March 2019

you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain if:

  • You have not less than £2 million of money of your own that is under your own control and is in the UK.
  • You have invested your capital in the UK through UK Government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies.
  • The investment was made no earlier than twelve months prior to the date of your first Investor visa application.
  • You have maintained the level of investment during the life of your Investor visa.
  • You have spent a continuous period of two years if you have maintained an investment of at least £10 million, or three years if you have maintained an investment of at least £5 million, or five years if you have maintained an investment of at least £2 million in the UK with an Investor visa and were not absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any twelve-month period.
  • You have sufficient knowledge of the English language and Life in the UK ((this requirement doesn’t have to be met if you are aged over sixty five).

You will need to submit your Tier 1 Investor visa ILR application before the 6 April 2025.

If your Investor visa was obtained after the 29 March 2019 you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain if:

  • You have not less than £2 million of your own that is under your own control and is in the UK.
  • You have invested your capital in the UK through share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies (note – no government bonds).
  • The investment was made no earlier than twelve months prior to the date of your first Investor visa application.
  • You have maintained the level of investment during the life of your Investor visa.
  • You have spent a continuous period of two years if you have maintained an investment of at least £10 million, or three years if you have maintained an investment of at least £5 million, or five years if you have maintained an investment of at least £2 million in the UK with an Investor visa and were not absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any twelve-month period.
  • You have sufficient knowledge of the English language and life in the UK (this requirement doesn’t have to be met if you are aged over sixty-five).

Can you bring dependants to the UK on an Investor visa?

Your family members can come with you to the UK (or join you at a later date) if you secure an Investor visa. Your family members will have to:

A ‘dependant’ is defined in the Immigration Rules as:

  • Your partner – a partner includes a husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried partner, or same-sex partner.
  • Your child if under the age of eighteen.

What are the alternatives to an Investor visa?

If the restrictions on how you can invest your money in the UK on an Investor visa don’t appeal to you then there are alternative visa options depending on your personal and financial circumstances. These visa options include:

All these visa types require you to secure endorsement from a Home Office approved endorsing body. Only the Innovator visa requires a financial commitment but that is very modest in comparison to the minimum level of investment required under an Investor visa.

If you are unsure of the best business immigration visa for your circumstances it is best to take legal advice on your options. Make sure you take expert advice on the Immigration Rules leading to settlement so that you can achieve your goal as quickly as possible. 


What next?

If you need legal advice on your Tier 1 (Investor) Visa application, or any other aspects of business immigration, our  solicitors can help. Call us on 0800 689 1700, or fill out the short form below with your enquiry.

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