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Wealthy Russians Prefer British Visas

Published: March 19, 2014 (Issue # 1802)



  • Millionaires have flocked to Britain’s 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 Britain’s 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 program’s 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 Russia’s 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 Britain’s 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 Britain’s 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 investor’s 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, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.



Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous’ in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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