The UK is currently home to more than 700 wealthy Russians and after the Salisbury poisonings, the government is trying to curb the influence of the Kremlin within UK borders. Under review, the Russians will have to resubmit papers and documents to reaffirm their visa or risk deportation, due to further restrictions on issuing visas to overseas investors, stemming from hundreds of high profile Russian officials making the UK their home over the past decade, with little investment in the UK economy. The Home Office continues to make changes to their system from 3 years ago, at which point they reviewed tier 1 investors due to the suspicion the accumulated wealth was achieved through corruption. The investment requirement is now £2m investment and financial records must be legitimate, which immediately saw a decrease in the number of applications put forward to the Home Office. Further measures are rumoured to be in the mill, as tensions between Russia and the UK are set to rise.
Our source said: “We are reviewing all tier 1 [investor] visas granted before 5 April 2015, some of which are issued to wealthy Russians. We have not ruled out making further changes to the tier 1 investor route in order to ensure that it continues to work in the national interest…The government keeps all immigration routes under review and has the ability to curtail a visa where we find evidence of serious wrongdoing”.
After the Salisbury poisoning, many critics of the Kremlin are glad to see the issuing of visa’s become more stringent, as for certified Russian officials, they believe it was too easy for them to gain access into the UK. Which comes as no surprise, at the end of the week when Theresa May announced the culprits for the Salisbury attack were two Russian military intelligence service personnel, The GRU, murdering Sergei and Yulia Skripal, which was more than likely to have been ordered ‘at a senior level of Russian state’, and so unlikely Vladamir Putin did not know anything about the poisoning, before its occurrence in world media.
Rachel Davies Teka, Head of Advocacy at Transparency International, an anti-corruption agency added: “In this period over 3,000 individuals were granted a visa, each investing a minimum of £1m. Our research found that almost a quarter of those were from Russia, a state associated with high levels of corruption risk. This could mean that over 700 wealthy Russians gained UK residency between 2008 and 2015, without proper checks over the source of their wealth that allowed them to secure that visa.”
In effect ‘We have in effect been selling off British citizenship to the rich’.
MP’s who once criticized the system at its origination, are now welcoming harsher background checks for oligarchs, but also say our visa regime should be firm but fair “so we make it easier for ordinary Russians to come here and more difficult for oligarchs” as our visa system rewards kleptocrats and punishes ordinary people.