The great escape: demand for £200 000 visas soars

A growing group of South Africans are increasingly eyeing obtaining the UK’s £200 000 Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa as political and economic woes continue to pummel their homeland.

This is according to Gary Kockott, MD for SA at Sable International, who says he’s seen an uptick in local demand for the visa. The visa offers a way for entrepreneurs to invest their way to citizenship in the UK for themselves and their families.

Q: Gary, SA is going through a turbulent time at the moment. Have you noticed an increase in clients coming to Sable International to enquire and seek UK business visas?

A: Absolutely. I think there’s a lot of individuals who are disillusioned at where we will be in the next few years. I think that with the rampant corruption, state capture, further downgrades, and our imminent recession, people are very disillusioned. So we’ve seen a big increase in client interest.

Q: Can you tell me about the UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Investment Program that Sable International offers?

A: Yes. It’s a bespoke UK citizenship by investment program where, through a £200 000 investment into the UK, you can obtain UK residency for you and your family and ultimately citizenship – if all the requirements are met. In short, we match investor skills and experience with a range of pre-approved business investment opportunities whilst meeting the UK Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa qualifying criteria.

Q: You said it costs about £200 000?

A: Yes. That’s the capital investment you have to make into either a new or an existing UK business.

Q: How long is the visa valid for? You can basically qualify for UK citizenship afterwards, so can your whole family then also qualify for that?

A: Yes, absolutely. You can take your entire family, as long as they are dependents, with you. Your initial visa is granted for 3 years and 2 months, at which stage you would extend. If you meet those requirements, that extension is to 5 years. You then get indefinite leave to remain and once you’ve been a permanent resident for 5 years and you’ve held your indefinite leave to remain for 12 months, you’re able to apply for citizenship.

Q: You said that Sable International matches up the applicants with businesses. Can you tell us a little bit more about how that process works?

A: We’ve partnered with a private equity firm and they specialise in obtaining foreign direct investment into the UK. They have a number of businesses – investee businesses – that are actively seeking foreign direct investment. What we then do (together with our partners) is we match an individual’s skills and their experience with those businesses’ needs, because you have to match your skills with the business in order to qualify for the visa.

Q: How easy or difficult is it to get this visa compared to other, similar European visas, for example?

A: My recommendation would be to use a skilled immigration advisor. You do have to jump through some hoops in order to achieve it as it’s not straightforward. You have to apply a genuine test etc., but if you meet the capital amount and you’ve got a decent advisor, you’ll be able to get your visa.

Q: What is the rationale from the UK side to dole out visas like this? What is their main motivation behind it?

A: They’re looking for foreign direct investment into the United Kingdom, so they have a number of different Tier 1 investor visas, of which the entrepreneur visa is one of them.

Q: Is this one way in which the UK brings in a lot of foreign expertise, despite the advent of Brexit?

A: Absolutely, they’re bringing in the investment and they’re bringing in the skills.

Q: What has the reception been like from South African citizens?

A: The interest has been big. This visa has been around for quite some time, since 2008, but in the last few months the last 8 or 9 months, given our political climate and our economic instability, there’s been a huge increase in interest across all our visa categories. Generally, people are looking to emigrate.

Q: Can you maybe tell me about some of your other visa categories as well then?

A: Obviously within the Tier 1 category there’s the entrepreneur visa, there’s also the investment visa or the investor visa, that’s more of a passive opportunity where you invest £2m into the UK, that’s into a UK bank account which you then invest into UK government bonds loan capital or share capital and you are able to go over. The visa is granted for 5 years and you are able to go, live and work in the UK with your family. Then, there are a whole bunch of other categories. e.g. Married partner visas, ancestry visas, and other types of immigration visas.

Q: For our readers out there who are interested in obtaining one of these visas, what kind of advice would you give them, just in terms of going about this process?

A: Well, all of these services you can do yourself but my recommendation is if you are serious about emigrating, you get the right advice. Whether it’s through us or through other emigration advisors. getting the right advice of which category to go through and how to achieve it is the best way forward.

Q: Once an applicant is through to the other side in the UK, do you at Sable International still keep in touch with them? How does that work?

A: Absolutely, so we assist throughout the process. When we do the entrepreneur visa for example, as far as we’re concerned we’re in the process with you for the 6 years, until you get your citizenship. So we’re able to advise you, do all your extensions for you, we’ll ensure that you meet the various requirements in obtaining those extensions so that you’ll eventually get your citizenship.

Q: Gary, and just looking at this year so far, can you maybe give me numbers on how many people have approached you to date or how many you’re expecting to approach you regarding business visas for the UK?

A: Yes, I’m probably getting between 5 and 10 interested clients a week but it’s a long sale cycle, the individuals take a bit of time to make the decision. It’s a very big decision, emigrating, a lot of these guys are having to sell up their assets, if they’re emigrating permanently because of the fee of £200 000, which is about R3.5m in today’s money, so a lot of people are selling up in order to do that. the interest is massive and it’s also massive in terms of individuals looking to take their wealth offshore, and looking for second citizenships.

Q: Talking about second citizenships, so once you’ve perhaps got one of these visas and you get UK citizenship ultimately, can you still hang onto your South African citizenship then? How does that process work?

A: Yes, as long as you do it in the right manner, so you have to notify the South African government that you’re applying for UK citizenship. We (South Africans) are allowed to hold dual citizenship, so you certainly are able to keep your South African citizenship and take on the UK citizenship, as long as you go through the right process beforehand, before you make the application.

Q: Gary, and looking at visas like this. Is it a key strategy of Sable International’s? How does this fit into your broader business strategy?

A: Absolutely, we assist individuals who want to internationalise themselves, their wealth, or their businesses, so we’re constantly looking at ways in which we can assist individuals, who are looking to get second citizenships or emigrate or move, particularly to the United Kingdom or Australia. Putting together this program was just one of those bespoke options in being able to assist our clients better.

Q: Gary, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you today. Thanks very much for giving us more information on this.

A: Not a problem. Thanks very much, Gareth, I appreciate your time.

By Gareth van Zyl for BizNews 

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