updated 5:58 PM CEST, May 5, 2021

U.K. decides not to suspend its 'golden visa' scheme after all

The U.K.'s Tier 1 visa program has helped to keep demand high for pricey London residential properties The U.K.'s Tier 1 visa program has helped to keep demand high for pricey London residential properties

In an unexpected about-face that has drawn criticism from some groups, the UK has decided not to go ahead with a planned suspension of its so-called Tier 1 Investor program.

As reported,  U.K. immigration minister Caroline Nokes announced the plan to suspend the popular "golden visa" scheme last week, cited concerns that some of those taking advantage of it may have been using it to launder money and otherwise engage in criminal activities.

"We will not tolerate people who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the system," Nokes had said, in announcing the suspension. The plan had been to resume the Tier 1 scheme once an audit process had been introduced, according to reports.

But now, it has emerged that the scheme has not in fact been suspended, although a spokesperson for the Home Office told journalists that the government remains "committed to reforming" it. The news was immediately criticised by anti-corruption campaigners, who had welcomed the original announcement of the program's suspension. 

 First introduced in 2008, the UK's Tier 1 program had been particularly popular among wealthy Russian and Chinese citizens. However, concerns began to be raised after a 2014 government committee report questioned the scheme's economic benefits. After the poisoning of a Russian former spy,  Sergei V. Skripal, on British soil earlier this year, the Home Office said it would review more than 700 investor visas that had been issued to wealthy Russians.

As reported here last week, the U.K.'s Tier 1 investor visa was one of a number of such programs to be introduced around the world in recent years, as governments embraced them as an easy way of bringing money into much-needed areas, while also adding to the countries’ tax revenues.

In recent years, however, a number of countries have begun to have second thoughts, and one of the first countries to introduce them, Canada, scrapped its investor visa program altogether in 2014, after initially suspending it in 2012.  The U.S. is also in the process of updating itsown popular, 28-year-old EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, which grants up to 10,000 US Green Cards annually to foreign nationals.