A surging number of affluent Hong Kong citizens have snapped up the so-called UK ‘golden visa’ by investing at least £2 million each in Britain.
The number of Hong Kongers who were allowed to move to the UK through the expensive scheme – aiming at boosting the British economy – nearly doubled in the second quarter, according to official statistics.
The quarterly figure is a record high for the former British colony since the end of 2014 when the Home Office doubled the investment requirement for the visa.
A record number of Hong Kong citizens have been allowed to move to the UK through the Tier 1 investor visa since the government doubled the cost of the scheme to £2 million in late 2014
Chinese applicants in general, including those from Hong Kong as well as the mainland, snatched more than half of the 124 ‘golden visas’ issued by the UK between April and June.
The term ‘golden visa’ was originally used to refer to the Spanish and Portuguese investment immigration programmes, which help non-EU residents secure EU residency quickly through purchasing high-end real estate, mostly on the countries’ ‘golden coast’.
It is used by some to refer to the Tier 1 investor visa in the UK, which requires the applicants to pour the money into British companies.
Last year, the UK government issued 374 such visas.
The prestigious immigration certification allows deep-pocketed businessmen and their family members to live and work in the UK for five years before being eligible to settle here.
Last year, 374 international investors and their families were allowed to move to the UK through the expensive scheme. Nearly half of them were from mainland China and Hong Kong
For those who can spare £10 million in one go, they and their families can dodge the waiting game and settle after just two years.
Thirteen Hong Kong investors were granted the high-value passes in the second quarter, making up 10 per cent of all successful applicants. The number for the first quarter was seven.
Mainland Chinese investors were still the largest applicants group, accounting for 45 per cent.
The depreciation of pound sterling triggered by the uncertainty over Brexit is a leading factor to the sudden growth.
‘Brexit does not matter to these families,’ said Rafael Steinmetz Leffa from Shard Capital who specialises in helping high-rolling investors immigrate to the UK from the Far East.
‘In fact, some of these individuals are optimistic about the prospects of Brexit. They see Brexit as an opportunity because it has brought a decline in the cost [of the visa],’ Mr Steinmetz told MailOnline.
Hong Kong tycoons, such as Li Ka-shing who is set to buy British pub chain Greene King for £2.7 billion, are known for building their success through thrift.
Many Hong Kong tycoons, such as Li Ka-shing (pictured in may), choose to lead a thrifty life
Hong Kong applicants can now save up to 20 per cent paying for the ‘golden visa’ while calculating the cost in Hong Kong dollars – compared to the first half of 2016 before the Brexit referendum.
Mr Steinmetz added that the high standards of education in the UK made the country particularly attractive to Chinese families who value academic results of their children.
The unstable political situation in the Asian financial hub could be another factor.
Henley & Partners, a multi-national immigration consulting firm, said it had seen a general spike in interest and enquiries in residence and citizenship programmes from Hong Kong clients during the escalation of the city’s protests.
Many rich Chinese families have moved to the UK in favour of its high standards in education
‘Compared to the same period last year, for example, there has been a 260 per cent rise in interest from Chinese nationals or investors resident in Hong Kong,’ the company’s spokesman, Paddy Blewer, told MailOnline.
‘The number of queries from this region more than doubled between June 2019 and July 2019,’ Mr Blewer added.
Hong Kong has been rocked by an anti-government movement since the beginning of June. The rallies were first sparked by a law bill that would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. But the city’s residents are now demanding for wider democratic reforms.
Ongoing protests in Hong Kong have also prompted affluent families in the city to consider an alternative citizenship. Pictured, a police officer tries to control the situation in a rally
However, Mr Blewer pointed out the domestic unrest in Hong Kong was only part of the cause of the quick growth.
‘The truth is that people are more interdependent and mobile than ever before, and the concept of borders is changing.’
He said the super rich demographics were looking for ‘a safeguard and an insurance policy for the 21st century’.
‘Diversifying their citizenship portfolios provides them and their families with greater international opportunity, stability, freedom and security.’
Chinese are the dominant force in the ‘golden visa’ schemes around the world (file photo)
Experts expect the interests from Hong Kong in UK’s Tier 1 investor visa to keep growing.
‘Since the unrest over the extradition bill only began in earnest in June, Hong Kong [investors’] interest in the programme may set new records again in the third quarter,’ said Georg Chmiel, the Executive Chairman of Juwai. His firm specialises in helping Chinese people purchase upscale overseas properties.
Chinese are the dominant force in the ‘golden visa’ schemes around the world.
More than 57,000 Chinese applicants have spent more than $44 billion (£35 billion) on such programmes in Western countries in the last decade, according to a study from Investment Migration Insider.
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa in the United States has been the most popular choice so far, with one in every three Chinese ‘golden visa’ investors splurging on the enviable permit.
Source : Mail Online