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Wealthy Russians Prefer British Visas

Published: March 19, 2014 (Issue # 1802)



  • Millionaires have flocked to Britains Tier 1 investor visa program in recent years.
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Wealthy Russians are likely to favor a popular British citizenship-for-investment program despite a shifting legal landscape and a looming threat of EU sanctions connected to the Crimea crisis, people familiar with the situation said.

Millionaires have flocked to Britains Tier 1 investor visa program in recent years. Between 2008 and 2013, Britain granted 433 visas to Russian investors through the program, more than to any other nationality during that period.

The program, which launched in 1994, offers a range of citizenship options to applicants looking to invest upwards of £1 million in Britain.

Related: How Wealthy Russians Buy a 2nd Passport

Although applicants are required to spend a minimum of 180 days per year in the country to qualify for the program, investors can circumvent this requirement by listing a spouse as the primary applicant.

Recently proposed changes may threaten the programs cost-effectiveness and simplicity. In February, the British Migration Advisory Committee, or MAC, proposed raising the investment threshold to £2 million and encouraging riskier investments.

Many of the MAC recommendations are likely to pass, given the respect the independent advisory body holds, said Anatoly Gakenberg, an attorney specializing in citizenship-for-investment programs.

The British Home Office and the British Embassy in Moscow did not reply to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, the European Union has threatened various sanctions amid escalating tensions over Russias handling of the Ukraine crisis. On Mar. 6, the EU announced the suspension of visa-liberalization talks with Russia, and warned that other measures could follow.

Asset freezes and travel bans may be implemented against certain Russian officials as well, potentially to be followed by additional and far-reaching consequences.

British politicians have also expressed strong support for possible EU sanctions. Hesitancy or weakness on the part of the EU about its response will send precisely the wrong message, said Ed Miliband, leader of Britains Labour Party, BBC reported.

Despite these difficulties, people who assist Russians in obtaining the visas said that Russian investors would likely continue to enjoy the benefits of the Tier 1 program.

Phillip Barth, top immigration attorney at Withers LLP, said the program would remain an attractive option because of Britains friendly attitude toward foreign investment. In contrast, a similar program in the U.S. requires extensive proof of the source of an investment, while Britain merely requires that the money be held in a freely transferable bank account under the investors name for 90 days.

The Brits have always been very welcoming to capital, no matter what part of the world it comes from, as long as it is legitimate, Gakenberg said.

Furthermore, Britain will remain more attractive to investors than some of the alternatives, said Matthew Roazen, special counsel at Withers LLP. Roazen explained that the perceived strength of Russian and Cypriot law enforcement ties has discouraged investment in Cyprus, noting that his clients are not interested in sharing with the Russian government what their plans are with respect to passports and residences.

Still, Gakenberg encourages clients to apply for the program before the proposed amendments take effect, while costs are still relatively low.





 

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Sept. 3


Although the Peter and Paul Fortress sand sculptures are more central and therefore more visible to the throngs of tourists, the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburgs own collection closes today. The World Collection of Sand Sculptures that have been on display at the park reaches its final day, so fans of the classic beach activity should get there while they can.



Thursday, Sept. 4


Vladimir I. Danchenkov, Head of Baltic Customs, will be in attendance during AmChams Customs and Transportation Committee Meeting convening this afternoon at the organizations office near St. Isaacs Square at 3 p.m.



Friday, Sept. 5


Scrabble lovers and chess masters get their chance to assert their intellectual dominance at the return of the British Book Centers Board Game Evenings tonight. Held weekly on Friday nights, the event gives both board game lovers and those hoping to improve their English the chance to meet, greet and compete. Check out the centers VK page for more details.



Saturday, Sept. 6


Athletes will relish the chance to get the latest gear and try out something new at I Choose Sport, an annual event at Lenexpo forum that plans to welcome more than 30,000 people this week to the international exhibition center. Not only will visitors get to try their hand at various athletic endeavors but they will also be able to peruse equipment that can fulfill their dreams of becoming a champion.


Local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg open their season this evening at home against Lokomotiv Yarovslavl at the Ice Palace arena next to the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. See their website for a full schedule and available tickets.



Sunday, Sept. 7


Check out retro and antique cars at Fort Konstantin on Kronstadt Island in the Gulf of Finland at FORTuna, a yearly car festival that highlights the eccentricities of the Soviet automobile industry. A car race, contests and a stunt show will give visitors a chance to rev their engines.



Monday, Sept. 8


This evening marks the opening of the two-week ballet festival High Season at the Mikhailovsky Theater. Check the theaters website for more details about performances and featured dancers.



Tuesday, Sept. 9


Discuss the latest news and issues at the AmCham Hazardous Waste Management Roundtable this morning in the Tango Conference Hall of the Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge on Birzhevoy Pereulok. Starting at 9 a.m., planned topics include the Krasny Bor landfill and waste transportation between Russia and Finland.


Learn more about the citys modern architectural trends at the SPIBA Real Estate and Construction Committees meeting on the topic Contemporary Petersburg Style: What is It? Participants will get the chance to discuss whats in-demand with RBI Holdings Irina Petrova and Lubava Pryanikova, and the current state of the local real estate market. Please confirm your attendance by Sept. 5 through SPIBAs website if you wish to attend.



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