Press Release: The UK’s Golden Visa scheme needs urgent reform and greater transparency to address national security risk

The UK’s gold­en visa scheme pos­es a sig­nif­i­cant cor­rup­tion, mon­ey laun­der­ing and nation­al secu­ri­ty risk, says Spotlight on Corruption in a new brief­ing released today. 

Spotlight has also learnt via a Freedom of Information request, that all gold­en visas issued dur­ing the 2008–2015 “blind faith” peri­od – when lit­tle or no checks were made on appli­cants wealth – are being reviewed by the Home Office for nation­al secu­ri­ty risks.(1)

Many of those who received gold­en visas over this time peri­od would have become eli­gi­ble for UK cit­i­zen­ship over the last few years. 

We are there­fore call­ing for fur­ther reform of the gold­en visa scheme and for the Home Office to pub­lish the find­ings of it’s review into the “blind faith” peri­od, which despite being launched over three years ago, is still yet to be made public. 

Our analy­sis of Home Office data also reveals: 

  • The Home Office refus­es very few gold­en visa appli­ca­tions, just 9% com­pared to 42% for asy­lum appli­ca­tions in the years 2008–2019.(2)
  • The UK has one of the fastest pro­cess­ing rates glob­al­ly for gold­en visas, with deci­sions made with­in 3 weeks com­pared with 6 months for asy­lum applications. 
  • Of the total gold­en visas issued to Russian nation­als between 2008 and 2020, 85% were hand­ed out dur­ing the “blind faith” peri­od. For oth­er coun­tries with a high cor­rup­tion risk there is a sim­i­lar pat­tern with 86% of appli­cants from Pakistan, 74% from Kazakhstan, 76% from Ukraine and 67% from China issued dur­ing this period. 

Court doc­u­ments released last week con­firmed that the cousin of Azerbaijan’s President, Izzat Javadova, who reached a £4 mil­lion set­tle­ment with the NCA relat­ing to the Azerbaijani laun­dro­mat, had a gold­en visa like­ly obtained dur­ing the ‘blind faith’ period. 

A Court of Appeal rul­ing in April this year, mean­while, found that a cir­cu­lar invest­ment scheme for gold­en visa appli­cants, where­by the required funds were bor­rowed from a Russian-owned com­pa­ny and then invest­ed into large­ly Russian com­pa­nies was legal. 

In their judge­ment, the judges admit­ted to “reluc­tant­ly” com­ing to this deci­sion, not­ing the “draft­ing of the rel­e­vant rules leaves a great deal to be desired” and called for a “com­pre­hen­sive review” of the immi­gra­tion rules.

Our brief­ing warns that the gold­en visa regime con­tin­ues to pose a sig­nif­i­cant nation­al secu­ri­ty, cor­rup­tion, and mon­ey laun­der­ing risk to the UK despite recent reforms. Glaring loop­holes remain, includ­ing that appli­cants using ‘gift­ed’ funds to apply for a gold­en visa still face no due dili­gence, and that the Home Office remains over-reliant on finan­cial insti­tu­tions for due dili­gence on wealth invested. 

Susan Hawley, Executive Director of Spotlight on Corruption said:

The UK’s gold­en visa regime con­tin­ues to pose a sig­nif­i­cant cor­rup­tion, mon­ey laun­der­ing and nation­al secu­ri­ty risk to the UK. It is alarm­ing and deeply unfair that the gov­ern­ment is becom­ing dra­con­ian in oth­er parts of its Immigration pol­i­cy but has yet to close major loop­holes that allow dirty mon­ey to come to the UK. The gov­ern­ment must com­mis­sion an inde­pen­dent review of whether the regime pro­vides any real ben­e­fit to the UK. It should also urgent­ly dis­close the find­ings of its review into visas issued pri­or to 2015, when almost no checks were car­ried out on gold­en visas, so the lessons from that review can be learned.

(1) This cov­ers a wide range of nation­al secu­ri­ty risks, includ­ing illic­it finance, cor­rup­tion and wider seri­ous and organ­ised crime.

(2) Data on asy­lum appli­ca­tion out­comes is not yet avail­able for 2020. 

Spotlight On Corruption by Tom Robinson

Related Posts