UK: IMMIGRATION: The Investor Category

Last Updated: 3 September 1999

An individual who satisfies various criteria may be granted permission to enter and live in the UK as an "investor" for various periods of time. The investor category was introduced in 1994, but there have been only a handful of applications.


An applicant must intend "to make the UK his main home", but this is only a matter of current intention and need not prejudice a foreign domicile.

The applicant must show that he has at least £1m of his own under his control available for investment, which he intends to invest in the UK; more specifically,

  • investments in the UK must be made personally, rather than through a company or any other mechanism, such as a trust;
  • at least £750,000 (out of the £1m) must be invested in UK gilts or the shares or loan capital (including ADRs or Eurobonds) of active UK trading companies (either private companies or those quoted on the Stock Exchange);
  • the evidential requirements for private companies are quite cumbersome and it is probably safer from a logistical point of view to invest in Stock Exchange listed companies;
  • unit trusts are acceptable provided that the underlying companies satisfy the requirements;
  • property investment companies are not acceptable, although construction, manufacturing or retailing companies or hotels operating with a significant property investment may be satisfactory;
  • offshore companies are not acceptable, although an investment by way of loan capital in a qualifying wholly-owned UK subsidiary will be;
  • leaving the funds on deposit with a bank or building society is not acceptable;
  • the balance of the £1m may be invested in the purchase of UK accommodation or "significant works of art" (but not personal effects such as jewellery or antique furniture), or may be left on deposit with a bank or building society.

The applicant must prove he is able to accommodate himself and any dependants without recourse to public funds or employment.

Finally, the applicant will not (but a spouse and any dependants will) be permitted to take up any employment, though self-employment and business activities are permitted.

Permission to enter and remain in the UK

In the first instance the applicant is likely to be given 12 months’ permission to enter the UK in this capacity. Before that initial period expires, he must apply to the Home Office for an extension: provided he continues to satisfy the conditions, he is likely to be given a further three years’ permission.

After four years in the UK (time for these purposes does not start running until the money is invested) fulfilling the conditions, the applicant (and any dependants) can apply to the Home Office for permanent residence ("indefinite leave to remain" or "ILR") status, freeing him from UK immigration and employment restrictions.

It is worth noting that the Home Office can require an individual to have been "continuously present" in the UK during the four year period before granting permanent residence status, which in their view means that not more than one year of the four has been spent outside the UK.

Theoretically, at least, if an individual has not complied with the continuous presence condition, the Home Office can refuse both the permanent residence status and a further extension application. In our experience, however, the Home Office are not consistent in enforcing this condition and, even when they do raise the matter, can sometimes be persuaded to approve applications where the applicant has spent a significantly longer period outside the UK. (This would be an issue for other categories under the Immigration Rules as well.)

Application procedure

An application for investor status must be made to an Entry Clearance Officer at a British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate at a time when the applicant is outside the UK. The application is made by way of letter (which we can draft) together with the following supporting documentation:

  • A letter or statements from a bank/investment manager (or potentially ourselves if the money were transferred to our Client Account) confirming the availability of the requisite level of assets, together with an outline of a qualifying investment portfolio. This is the most important document and some care should be taken in its preparation.
  • Standard forms, the most important of which are Forms IM2A and IM2C, copies of which we can supply. These are also available from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.

The applicant may be interviewed and probably required to attend the relevant diplomatic post to have his passport stamped when the application is approved. He will be given up to six months to travel to the UK to take up the permission.

Referral to London

The length of time taken to process an application depends on the work-load of the Embassy and whether there are considered to be complications. The application may be referred back to London. Referral to the Home Office in London could delay the application for weeks and even months, although our recent experience has been much better than this.

It is important to give the authorities no excuse for referring the matter back to London as a case which is in any way complex or borderline. Provided the applicant approves, the submission of an application showing more than the minimum £1m of assets, together with confirmation (e.g. from a bank) of at least two years’ ownership of the money and adequate medical insurance, will make it much more difficult for the authorities to delay the application.

Each case requires specialist advice depending on its own particular circumstances (and in particular on any taxation implications) and no responsibility can be accepted for the application of any principles contained in this note unless we have given such detailed advice.

If you would like any further information or specific advice please contact Robin Vos, Edward Reed, Helen Darling or Jane Davies.

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