As 29 March 2019 looms near, we are not much clearer whether we will have a soft or hard Brexit, or even if there will be a deal. There might even be a possibility that Brexit could be cancelled.
In relation to non-EEA citizens, the UK immigration system will not generally be affected by Brexit, though changes in the near future are inevitable. The current UK Points-Based System was first implemented in 2008. A decade later, the UK Immigration Rules have more than doubled in length.
Of significant interest are the changes made to the UK "golden visa", formally called a Tier 1 (Investor) visa. This has been a popular route amongst HNW individuals, with more than 3,700 of these visas granted for entry to the UK since 2008. Russian citizens account for almost a quarter of this figure.
Prior to November 2014, individuals with a minimum of £1 million could apply. At its peak, the highest number of "golden visas" granted for entry to the UK was 1,172 in 2014. The Home Office then introduced changes, meaning a minimum of £2 million had to be invested into prescribed sources, such as UK Government bonds. In some instances, individuals have to confirm the origin of their funds.
In 2015, further changes were made, by requiring HNW individuals to obtain criminal record certificates to cover the previous 10-year period. These changes dramatically reduced the number of "golden visas" granted for entry to the UK. That year only 192 of these visas were granted; however, these numbers have since been increasing year on year.
The changes have meant that some Tier 1 (Investor) visa holders have been unable (or find it difficult) to renew their visa, as it seems was the case with Roman Abramovich. The UK Government is reviewing this route and further changes relating to compliance are likely.
Despite these changes, this visa category is a popular choice as there is the opportunity to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK after 5 years, or 3 years with an investment of £5 million, or even after just 2 years with an investment of £10 million.
For EU citizens it seems that the existing rules will apply until approximately December 2020, under the "settled status" scheme. This is, of course, subject to the final Brexit agreement. The UK Government has indicated a possibility that EU citizens will not receive preferential treatment under a post-Brexit immigration system, which is likely to be implemented after December 2020 or the end of the Brexit transitional period. If that is the case, we can probably expect a reform of the UK immigration system more generally, which is likely to take into account other recent recommendations made by the independent UK Migration Advisory Committee.
From a trade perspective, following Brexit, the UK will be free to sign up to trade agreements as it pleases, such as with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). I recently had the pleasure of attending my first RBCC event. The title of the morning seminar was "UK-Russia Trade Relations – Perspectives Post-Brexit". It was very insightful and the general consensus was that the EEU could work for the UK but there would be a lack of political will. It will therefore be interesting to see what kind of trade agreements will be negotiated and how quickly these are agreed.
Ultimately, trade and migration are linked, and the UK's message should be that we remain open for business following Brexit.
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