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Wealthy Russians Prefer British Visas

Published: March 19, 2014 (Issue # 1802)



  • Millionaires have flocked to Britains 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 Britains 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 programs 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 Russias 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 Britains 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 Britains 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 investors 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, Sept. 24


AmChams Human Resources Committee meets this morning to discuss Labor Market Trends in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center on Ulitsa Yakubovicha. The meeting begins at 9 a.m.



Thursday, Sept. 25


Learn more about tax controls on prices at AmChams Taxation Committee Round Table Meeting this morning at 9 a.m. Vladimir I Golishevsky, Acting Head of the Transfer Pricing Department of the Federal Tax Service of Russia, will be in attendance to discuss amendments to the Russian Tax Code. Register in advance if you wish to attend by emailing all@spb.amcham.ru.


Today is the last day to check out Inventing Everyday Life. Part III: Street exhibition one of Manifestas parallel programs on at 36 Morisa Toreza Prospekt until 8 p.m.



Friday, Sept. 26


Feel yourself Spanish for a little bit at Spain Day, a celebration of all things Iberian this evening at the Derzhavin Mansion in the city center. Speak Spanish during the open classes, practice your footwork on the dance floor to the sounds of flamenco music or chow down on paella while learning more about the countrys culture.



Saturday, Sept. 27


Local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg welcomes Vityaz from the Moscow region this afternoon at 5 p.m. in a Western Conference showdown. Tickets are still available to the match and can be purchased on the teams website, at the arena or in their merchandise shop on Nevsky Prospekt.


Let Biblioteka restaurant on Nevsky Prospekt teach your children how to be proper gentlemen and ladies during Etiquette for Children, a class for children five to 11 years of age that promises to help them become the cream of society. The class starts at 5 p.m. and costs 600 rubles ($15.60). Call 322 2526 to reserve a spot for your child.



Sunday, Sept. 28


For something different, head to the African Pride Event being held by Nicks Walkabout Tours, who have also helped bring African tribal leaders for the celebration. Check Vkontakte for more information.



Monday, Sept. 29


Experience Baltic culture through the medium of drama during the Baltic House Theater Festival, which starts on Sept. 25 and continues through Oct. 13. Not only are some of the regions most famous dramatic works planned for production but the event acts as a creative laboratory for a future generation of dramatists. Check the events website for more details about the festival.



Tuesday, Sept. 30


Local neo-pagans invite all worshipers to the dedication of a new Heart Tree in Sosnovka Park, Gods Wood. 4 p.m.


The second MIFIC Expo begins today at Lenexpo, providing an interactive platform for industry experts and manufacturers. Accessories, surfaces and interior decoration materials are just some of the things that will be available for perusal at the expo, which runs through Oct. 2.



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