Financial services recruiters say some overseas candidates from non-EU countries are getting preferential access to jobs in the City of London by exploiting a feature of the UK’s visa system which allows people to work in the country if they have £1m in a UK bank account.
The UK government offers a so-called ‘Investor Visa’ under which people are granted visas if they can prove they are able to invest £1m in the UK. Individuals with investor visas are able to work in the country. Financial services recuiters say wealthy candidates from outside the EU are using investor visas to avoid challenging aspects of the broader visa system.
“We were representing a very strong candidate whom our client wanted to hire, but he didn’t have a visa and there were problems in securing him one,” said Dan McCarthy at search firm One Search. “It was only when his dad gave him a million pounds that he was able to get a visa and a job under the Tier 1 Investor scheme.”
Matthew Davies, an immigration partner at law firm Fox Williams, said it’s not unheard of for candidates to use the investor visa to get into the UK, but that it’s unusual. “Most people just don’t have that amount of money,” he said.
The investor visa would be most helpful in situations when people have come into the UK on a two intra-company transfer, said Davies. Under this programme, immigrants are compelled to leave the country at the end of the two years for a 12 month ‘cooling off period.’ The investor visa would be a way of avoiding this kind of mandatory absence.
Jonathan Goldsworthy, an associate in the employment team at Bird & Bird solicitors in London, agreed that it’s technically possible to sidestep the UK’s onerous immigration requirements by placing £1m into a bank account but that he hadn’t come across anyone doing it.