It’s a match made in heaven: Britain is hungry for Indian nationals to bolster its economy in sectors ranging from technology to science as it courts India post Brexit, and India’s highly-skilled citizens are increasingly drawn to the UK. Bringing them together is Beyond Residence & Citizenship, an industry-leading investment migration firm, with decades of UK experience and knowledge on the ground and 100% success rate in UK Tier 1 visa applications.
For Indian nationals, a British ILR (PR) can be a powerful transformer of an Indian family’s legacy, a game-changer for generations to follow. Becoming a British resident (and potentially, citizen) offers unquantifiable benefits as the whole family benefits from world-class education and healthcare and unlimited business opportunities.
The good news is that the post-Brexit environment heralds a new era of cooperation with India, with the British government widely expected to offer sweeteners for Indians to come to Britain as it seeks to boost trade ties with India.
India is likely to be among the beneficiaries of Britain’s new post-Brexit Immigration Bill which will end EU rules on free movement and give the government full control of UK borders following the UK’s departure from the EU on January 31, 2020. The government wants to remove a cap on highly-skilled migrants and improve the post-study work opportunities for international students under a new skills-based immigration system.
“This is an opportune moment for Indian nationals who wish to migrate to Britain,” says Polina Revzina, an accredited UK immigration adviser who is the managing partner of Beyond Immigration, an industry-leading investment migration firm providing bespoke residency and citizenship solutions for high-net-worth individuals and their families.
Official statistics already point to a seemingly insatiable demand from British companies for Indian labour. Britain issues more skilled worker visas to Indian nationals than to the rest of the world combined.
Britain appears to be welcoming Indians with open arms: Indian nationals topped the list of non-EU nationalities granted British citizenship in 2019 with 14,680 applicants, accounting for a third of all non-EU nationals, followed by 12,915 Pakistanis and 8,841 Nigerians. Indian visitors, professionals and students are being granted increasing numbers of UK visas. Figures released by the UK Home Office 2019 saw the largest number of Indian Tier 4 or study visa student visas granted since 2011, almost doubling – up 93% – to 37,540 compared to 2018. Indian professionals accounted for half of the Tier 2 work-related visas issued during 2019. The top three sectors were information and communication, human health and social work, and professional, scientific and technical work. Indian nationals were also granted the highest number of all work-related extensions during the year, 42% of the total.
The rise in Indian arrivals contrasts sharply a decline in EU immigration to UK, while the non-EU immigration has been rising. According to Britain’s Office for National Statistics, in the year to September 2019, the number of non-EU immigrants to the UK rose to its highest level since 1975 to 379,000, overtaking a previous peak of 370,000 in 2004 in the wake of the government decision to lift the cap on student numbers. At the same, the number of migrants coming to the UK to study overtook those coming to work for the first time since 2012. Chinese students accounted for almost a third of the non-EU immigrants at nearly 120,000, up 20% in a year, followed by Indian students. The UK scrapped the cap on university student numbers in 2015-16 as tuition fees were raised to £9,250 a year for UK undergraduates. Net non-EU migration – the difference between those coming and those leaving – also rose to 250,000 in the year to September 2019, its highest level since 2004, while net EU migration has continued its steady decline since the EU referendum in 2016 and now stands at 64,000, its lowest since 2004 and down from an annual peak of over 200,000 in the three years up to the vote.
America’s Loss Is Britain’s Gain
For years, the United States has been the favourite destination for wealthy Indians seeking to move abroad. However, in recent years, due to stricter US visa policies, many Indian citizens are looking elsewhere, Ms Polina Revzina says. “With the increasing cost and longer waiting times of US EB-5 Green Card visa category, Britain’s popularity has increased for Indian clients.” With that in mind, Beyond Residence & Citizenship experts have been actively addressing conferences in India and building relationships with Indian investors and immigration advisory groups on the ground.
Building Business Value Across Borders
Beyond Residence & Citizenship is helping Indian entrepreneurs build commercial value across borders by assisting them with investment migration applications in the UK as well as their professional and personal relocation needs, acting as a one-stop Family Office taking care of everything from schools to legal advice to concierge services.
Client after international client, case after case, Beyond has witnessed first-hand how investment migration can ultimately bolster the British economy.“We play a strategic role in curating talent from abroad for the UK economy. Investment migrants who are entrepreneurs bring innovation and create wealth. We have many years of experience advising entrepreneurs who are relocating to Britain as investment migrants,” says Ms Revzina.
Migrants or their descendants are the driving force behind some of the fastest growing companies in Britain, where one in seven – or 14% – of the population was born abroad, according to estimates by the Office for National Statistics. A recent study by the Entrepreneurs Network published in the Financial Times said that half of job-creating businesses in the UK have at least one foreign-born co-founder and India ranks as the third top birth country for company founders after the United States and France.
Britain’s 1.5 million-strong Indian diaspora is a significant contributor to UK’s wider society as well as its economic prosperity. A new report by consultancy firm Grant Thornton UK said Indian companies in the UK had a cumulative turnover of £41.2 billion and employed 110,793 people in 2020. The report, in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry, analysed data from 842 companies, and concluded that just over half of these Indian companies were based in London and they paid almost £462 million in corporation tax in 2020.
UK Representative of an Overseas Business Visa
Britain has introduced specific investment visa categories to target entrepreneurs. Among them, Ms Revzina says the Representative of an Overseas Business Visa has proven itself as the secure pathway for foreign entrepreneurs to move to the UK and expand their business, and provide a better quality of life for their families at the same time.
The UK Representative of an Overseas Business visa is an attractive option for entrepreneurs at a time when the bar to British residency and citizenship is rising. Britain doubled the minimum investment required for its premium Tier 1 Investor visa to two million pounds back in 2014, while the popular Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa route has ceased to exist from March 2019 – and the rules are progressively tightening.
Against this backdrop of rising barriers, Representative of Overseas Business visa is a viable alternative route to UK for entrepreneurs with established businesses. A senior employee of an overseas business who would like to come to the UK to set up and run a UK branch or a wholly-owned subsidiary of the business may be able to make an application for a representative of an overseas business visa.
The route to British passport goes like this: If the application for representative of overseas business visa is approved, the applicant will be given permission to enter and remain in the UK for up to three years initially. After this, the applicant will need to submit a further application for leave to remain, which would be valid for two years. The applicant has to remain in the UK as a senior employee of the same business throughout the five years, and the branch or subsidiary established in the UK must continue to operate. After five years in the UK in the representative visa category, the applicant may then be granted permission to remain in Britain permanently (the Indefinite Leave to Remain).
To summarize, the visa is initially granted for a period of three years, after which time applicants can apply to extend their visa provided they can meet the requirements set out by the UK government. The visa extension is granted for a period of two years after which time applicants can apply to settle in the UK.
For a parent company to satisfy the requirements of the representative of an overseas business visa, it must be a genuine commercial enterprise with its principal place of business outside the UK. It must also intend to keep its main center of operations outside the UK.
So, if your company is manufacturing auto parts, your UK branch or subsidiary must be engaged in a related line of business. A typical scenario might involve a senior employee of an active and trading company in India, with a proved turnover and seeking to establish a commercial presence in the UK. If your family has a business, you could also be eligible if you satisfy the British authorities that you are a senior employee who plans to work for the parent company on a full-time basis.
If your business already has a UK presence and the representative can be employed directly by the UK branch or subsidiary, this visa is not for you.
If you are not going to be based in the UK on a long-term basis, this visa is not for you either.
If you own more than 50% of the overseas business, you would have to restructure the business and become a minority shareholder to be able to meet the rules. Your spouse cannot be a majority shareholder either. Any change in the nature of the operations of the UK branch or subsidiary after which it can no longer be considered as carrying out the same type of business as the original overseas business would also be a red flag, as would a situation in which the UK branch or subsidiary is no longer wholly owned by the original overseas business.
To be eligible an applicant must have full authority to make operational decisions on behalf of the parent company, hold a senior position within the company, have sufficient funds to support their dependents, have extensive skills, experience and knowledge in the industry, meet the English language requirement, either by passing an approved English Language Test (English Level A1 CEFR) or proving that they hold an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognized by UK NARIC as being equivalent to UK bachelor’s degree, not take up any other employment whilst in the UK and prove that the UK branch is the first commercial presence in the UK.
So, the applicant and the business must be credible in terms of experience, turnover and track record. You need to satisfy the Home Office that you have been in business for at least a few years. The Home Office must be also satisfied that the UK branch is not being established solely for the purpose of facilitating the entry and stay of the applicant.
Indian nationals may also be eligible for an Overseas Representative visa if they are being posted to the UK on a long-term assignment. They can bring their family including spouse or unmarried partner and children under 18. Spouses can take up gainful employment of their choice and children can study in the UK, and the whole family has access to public education and healthcare system in Britain.
Route to British Passport Via Overseas Representative Visa
To apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, an applicant must have a valid visa as a representative of an overseas business at the time of submitting the application and must have spent not less than five years in the UK. They should also demonstrate that the employer company is still actively trading and based overseas.
Applicants must also be able to prove that they have established a UK registered branch or subsidiary of that overseas business and generated business as a result. To be granted ILR, they need to prove that they intend to continue in the job for which they were first granted leave to enter in the UK. The applicant also must have maintained himself or herself and any dependents in the UK without recourse to public funds at any point throughout the five years.
When it comes to applying for ILR, there are strict requirements in terms of the amount of time spent in the UK. Main applicant should not be outside the UK for more than 180 whole days in any 12-month period before the date of the ILR application. However, this rule does not apply to the dependents of the main applicant under this visa category – spouse and children may spend more than 180 days outside UK each year and still qualify for the ILR after 5 years.
Innovator and Start-Up Visas
The British government in 2019 launched two other new visa categories aimed at attracting entrepreneurs, the Innovator Visa and the Start-Up Visa. The Innovator Visa was launched in March 2019 to “enhance the UK’s offer to overseas entrepreneurial talent” and is aimed at more experienced business people who have 50,000 pounds to invest in an innovative business which could be scaled up fairly rapidly, while less-experienced investors seeking investment immigration were encouraged to apply for the Start-Up Visa.
The Innovator Visa got off to a slow start, attracting only 14 applications in the first six months of operation according to figures published by the Home Office. There were only four applications between April and June 2019 and 10 applications between June and September 2019. By contrast, Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa, which the Innovator Visa replaced, had 1,900 applications in 2018. The Innovator Visa requires applicants to be endorsed by one of a limited number of business incubators and seed funds. The Start-up Visa by comparison attracted 32 entry clearance applications in its first quarter of operation, of which 25 were decided on and 23 granted.
Innovator Visa applicants need to be endorsed by an approved body, have 50,000 British pounds to invest, meet a maintenance requirement of 945 pounds in savings for 90 days and for dependents 630 pounds each, have English-language ability and pass at level B2. They must also meet the credibility assessment, be 18 years or above and devote their entire time to the business (unlike Start-Up Visa holders who can work elsewhere). Switching from Start-Up Visas and certain other work visa categories is allowed.
The visa may be curtailed if the endorsement is withdrawn or if the endorser loses its status as an endorsing body. Teams of innovators (not limited to two people) can apply using the same business venture but cannot share the funds nor the endorsement. Each Innovator must qualify for endorsement in their own right and each must have 50,000 pounds. At the point of applying for settlement, they cannot share the same means of meeting the settlement criteria. For example, if three applicants are relying on the requirement to have created 10 jobs, 30 jobs must have been created in total. The 50,000 pounds investment could be from any source – from the applicant, a third-party individual, or the endorsing body. The innovator must seek endorsement from an updated list of approved endorsing bodies published on May 1, 2019. There are different endorsement standards depending on whether or not the business is considered “new”. The “new business” endorsement criteria requires a business plan that meets “new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage” skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness scalability with potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.
The “same business” endorsement criteria include confirmation that “the business appears to be sustainable for at least the following 12 months, based on its assets and expected income, weighed against its current and planned expenses”. The application is judged against the business plan assessed in the previous endorsement, meaning the applicant must show “significant” achievements against that plan. The endorser must also confirm that the business is active and trading, is registered at Companies House, the applicant who is now a registered director has demonstrated an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business, and the applicant will devote their entire time to developing the business. An applicant endorsed for the same business may apply for entry clearance or leave to remain. It is possible to make a same business application from overseas if the applicant has previously held leave as an innovator or as a start-up migrant. Innovator Visas are granted for three years at a time. In theory, holders can apply for settlement after three years. At the point of settlement, the same business criteria plus at least two additional criteria must be met. This is when the scalability element of the endorsement comes under the spotlight. There must be evidence of the structured planning coming to fruition, actual job creation and growth into national and international markets.
Moreover, the endorsing body must confirm that the business meets the same business criteria, i.e., “significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in their previous endorsement”. The applicant’s business venture must meet at least two of the following requirements:
- at least 50,000 pounds have been invested into the business and actively spent furthering the business plan assessed in the applicant’s previous endorsement
- The number of the business’s customers has at least doubled within the most recent three years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services
- The business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK
- The business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of one million pounds in the last full year covered by its accounts
- The business is generating a minimum annual gross revenue of 500,000 pounds in the last full year covered by its accounts, with at least 100,000 pounds from exporting overseas
- The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers
- The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers who have an average salary of at least 25,000 pounds a year (gross pay, excluding any expenses).
The innovator’s plans will also be assessed for “credibility”. The Home Office will take into account the evidence the applicant has submitted and its credibility including the applicant’s previous educational, work and immigration history, declarations made to other government departments regarding the applicant’s previous employment and other activity in the UK and any other relevant information.
Tier 1 Investor Visa Remains an Attractive Option
The Tier 1 Investor Visa allows foreign citizens get to permission to live in the UK in return for an investment of two million pounds in the British economy. The investment can be in shares or bonds issued by UK companies.
Around 12,000 people have come to the UK on a Tier 1 Investor visa since the route was launched in 2008, of which most – 7,500 – were dependent family members. The two million pounds puts the investor on the road to settlement in the UK after five years.
Accelerated settlement can be achieved by upping the investment amount: five million pounds gets settlement after three years, and ten million pounds allows settlement after just two years.
“Many of our Tier 1 Iinvestor Visa clients are families who want to relocate to Britain so they can educate their children in British schools,” says Ms Revzina. “The Tier 1 Investor Visa is also an attractive option for individuals in their late teens or early twenties who are looking to study and then subsequently work in Britain. Their parents provide the financing for their application.” This enables the applicant’s time spent in education in the UK to count towards the physical presence requirements for residency, and eventually citizenship. Unless married to a British citizen, qualifying for citizenship requires five years’ residence.
While a two-million-pound investment may seem a lot, in the long run investors get their money back since the investment amount is not a fee or donation to the government. Investors part with their cash to invest in a stake in a British company, which may well increase in value, and can have their money back after five years. In 2018, the Home Office excluded government bonds from the program in the hope of sending money to parts of the economy where it was more needed. Since the funds need to be invested to qualify for the visa, most investors opt for corporate or investment-grade bonds.
Statistics show that the Tier 1 Investor Visa remains extremely popular. The number of people who received the Tier 1 Investor Visa more than doubled in 2019, compared to 2018. A total of 360 people paid two million pounds each to receive the UK’s Tier 1 Investor Visa in 2019, over double the number that applied in 2018. An increase in both applicants and a doubling in price has meant the visa raised its highest ever investment in 2019 at £720 million.
Home Office statistics show that 23% of all Tier 1 Investor Visas went to Russian citizens between 2008 and 2015. Between 2015 and 2019, that fell to 14%. Investors from East Asia – China, Hong Kong and Japan – accounted for 40% in the later period, with Middle Eastern investors up at 9%.
Whatever happens, demand is likely to go one way: Up. There is also likely to be a Brexit effect on demand for investor visas, says Ms Revzina.
Post Brexit, EU free movement will no longer cover the UK, which could see more people applying for an investor visa in the UK. In the past, many high-net-worth individuals sought to obtain European passports in order to be in the UK, not to live in Malta or Cyprus. In the future, wealthy non-Europeans may end up applying for a UK investment category visa as well as a European one.
As requirements for investor migration visas become increasingly complex, finding the right advisor is more important than ever, says Ms Revzina. Even the smallest mistake can lead to non-compliance with the requirements, costing investors valuable time and resources.
“The Tier 1 Investor Visa is straightforward and easy to explain to clients,” she says. “But the devil is in the details. We make sure everything goes smoothly for our clients. We keep track of all the minor changes the Home Office keeps making. We also make sure that our clients have access to wealth managers who understand how the financial decisions on where and how to invest comply with the visa rules.”
The choice of second citizenship is ultimately determined by an individual’s particular needs, from ease of travel to education for children. A residency program will lead to citizenship if one resides in the country and is able to demonstrate a tangible physical as well as financial presence. Such programs require significant amounts of time, due diligence and paperwork to complete.
Ms Revzina’s holistic approach centers on objective advice driven by long-term relationships, which often transcend several generations of the same family. “We spend a lot of time with families trying to understand their needs,” Ms. Revzina says. “Clients come to us because they know they are getting expert advice.”
What differentiates Beyond from the competition is it does not promise what it cannot deliver: “With a UK passport application, the risk of rejection is not worth taking,” says Ms Revzina. “That is why we work hard to get it right each time.”
BEYOND RESIDENCE & CITIZENSHIP is an international investment migration firm offering bespoke residency and citizenship programmes to high-net-worth individuals and their families. The firm has particular strength in the UK where its team of immigration professionals delivers a unique family office expertise under one roof, from strategic advice to consolidated reporting. Please view our content and information about the programmes we offer at http://www.beyond-immigration.com