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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

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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