Tier 1 (Investor) visa: what investments qualify?

This note outlines the types of investments that do and do not qualify under the Tier 1 (Investor) immigration category.

Our accompanying note "Tier 1 (Investor) visa" outlines the requirements of the Tier 1 (Investor) category.

Investments that qualify

  • The applicant must have a minimum of £2m (sterling) available to invest in the UK.
  • The funds must be invested in the UK at all times in qualifying investments, which include:
    • UK Government Bonds, if the Tier 1 (Investor) migrant obtained their visa on the basis of the Immigration Rules in place before 29 March 2019 (the Old Rules). Please note that Tier 1 (Investor) migrants who obtained their visa under the Old Rules will only be able to rely on investments in UK government bonds for extension applications submitted before 5 April 2023 and for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) (also known as permanent residence or settlement) applications submitted before 5 April 2025. Tier 1 (Investor) migrants submitting extension/ILR applications after these dates will no longer be able to rely on investments in UK Government Bonds;
    • share capital or loan capital (for example, corporate bonds) in active and trading UK registered companies, other than those principally engaged in property investment, property management or property development; or
    • pooled investment vehicles which receive funding from the UK government or a devolved government department or one of its agencies.
  • Tier 1 (Investor) migrants have the option of investing more than £2m and reaching certain higher thresholds will result in a quicker route to ILR.
  • Investments against which loans have been taken out or investments that are held in non-UK custody accounts are not permitted.
  • An “active and trading UK registered company” means a trading company that is doing business, not a dormant or non-trading company. It must:
    • be registered with Companies House;
    • be registered with HMRC for corporation tax and PAYE;
    • have its registered office in the UK;
    • have a UK business bank account showing regular trade of its own goods and services; and,
    • have at least two UK based employees who are not directors.

In practice, provided the company is UK registered, listed on a UK stock exchange and is not undertaking one of the non-qualifying activities (see below), the Home Office is likely to take the view that it meets these requirements.

All the capital that forms part of the initial investment must remain invested while the applicant is in the UK under the Tier 1 (Investor) category. That is, once the Tier 1 (Investor) migrant has purchased their initial £2m (or £5m or £10m, if the applicant wishes to obtain ILR after three or two years respectively) of qualifying investments, all of the capital must remain invested for the duration of the Tier 1 (Investor) migrant’s stay in the UK.

If an investment is sold at a loss, the Tier 1 (Investor) migrant must purchase a new investment at the price at which the investment was sold. If an investment is sold at a gain, the Tier 1 (Investor) migrant must, again, purchase a new investment at the price at which the investment is being sold.

So, for example, if the Tier 1 (Investor) migrant buys an investment within the £2m portfolio for £100,000, but when it is sold it is only worth £85,000, a new qualifying investment must be bought for at least £85,000. Equally, if the value of the £100,000 investment has increased to £115,000 by the time it is sold, a new qualifying investment must be bought for at least £115,000.

When an investment is sold, a new qualifying investment must be bought either by the end of the next reporting period, or within six months, whichever is sooner.

Although Tier 1 (Investor) migrants are permitted to remove income from the portfolio, they are only permitted to remove interest accrued and dividends declared after the date on which they purchased the qualifying investment.

Invested capital cannot be used to pay any portfolio management fees, transaction costs or tax incurred through the buying and selling of investments, if these charges will deplete the investment below the initial investment level. However, if more than £2m (or £5m or £10m, as appropriate) is invested, it will be possible for the charges to be paid from the surplus, providing the surplus was invested on or before the date the charges were incurred.

For example, if the Tier 1 (Investor) migrant wishes to meet the £2m threshold and has invested £2.1m, up to £0.1m of charges (e.g. management fees, transaction costs, tax, etc.) may be paid from the investment funds, irrespective of the market value of the funds.

Investments that will not be counted

  • Funds invested via an offshore company or trust.
  • Funds invested in open-ended investment companies, investment trust companies or pooled investment vehicles, (unless they receive funding from the UK government or a devolved government department or one of its agencies) because ultimately the underlying investments cannot be guaranteed to be in the UK.
  • Funds invested in companies mainly engaged in property investment, property management or property development. Note that this category includes companies whose objective is to earn a return through rental income. However, investment in construction firms, manufacturers or retailers who own their own premises would be counted.
  • The funds cannot be solely invested 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.
  • UK Visas and Immigration will not approve applications that rely on leveraged investment funds since they will not accept that the funds are the Tier 1 (Investor) migrant’s own funds.

Conclusion

The Tier 1 (Investor) requirements are complex and, therefore, it is important that the applicant, and their wealth manager (if they are using one), are familiar with the Immigration Rules in relation to the investment requirements.

Unfortunately if a mistake is made with the investment, which, in our experience, is happening increasingly often, the applicant may find themselves in breach of the Immigration Rules. If an applicant does find themselves in breach, there is no mechanism within the Immigration Rules which allows applicants to correct the error and “wipe the slate clean”. In these situations, applicants will need to wait until they apply to extend their stay or for ILR to request that the Home Office exercises its discretion and approves the application.