UK safe haven for emigres with £1 million to invest

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Wealthy investors are flocking to Britain seeking a “safe haven” from turmoil in the Middle East and former Soviet countries.

Scottish law firm McGrigors, which is merging with London-based Pinsent Masons, said new rules surrounding investment visas should help direct funds from wealthy emigres away from central London and into the wider economy.

The number of investor visas issued to affluent foreigners has rocketed six-fold over the last three years, from 43 in 2008 to 320 last year.

Almost a third of investor visas went to high net-worth individuals from the former Soviet Union states, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine. Applicants from troubled Egypt increased four-fold in 2011.

Investor visas are a new category of visa introduced in April 2008, which allow high net-worth individuals with at least £1 million to invest in the UK to enter and remain in the country for three years. They are seen as a fast-track process for wealthy foreign nationals to acquire British citizenship.

Yuri Botiuk, a partner at McGrigors and head of the firm’s Russia and Ukraine desk, said: “Fears that the non-dom levy and the 50 per cent tax rate would deter ultra-high net worth foreign nationals from coming to the UK appear to be unfounded.”