Plan to sell British visas to the highest bidders ‘sends out the wrong message'

 

A proposal to auction British visas to millionaire bidders would cause public anger and damage the country’s reputation abroad, ministers have been warned.

They are considering a shake-up of the system, which allows super-rich foreign nationals to settle in Britain, following claims it could be modified to boost investment in this country. One option to be set out today by the Government’s migration advisory committee (MAC) is that a number of visas are set aside each year to be auctioned to the highest bidders.

Other alternatives to be floated include requiring investors to make “endowments” to universities. At the moment, applicants for “investor visas” pay between £1m and £10m to create a fast-track route to permission to live permanently in Britain. Investors who pay £10m can gain the right to residency in just two years.

However, Sir David Metcalfe, head of the MAC, has signalled his determination to overhaul the system, arguing most investors buy government gilts which they later sell, meaning there is little lasting benefit to the economy. Some Whitehall officials are sympathetic to the scheme, which carries echoes of a recent proposal by Malta to sell passports for £500,000, giving holders the right to live anywhere in the European Union. One official told The Independent: “A lot of these people are very high-worth individuals. Perhaps we can be more demanding of them.”

But immigration lawyers urged the Home Office and Department for Business to resist the proposal. Julia Onslow-Cole, head of global immigration at PwC Legal, said: “In the current climate I don’t think it would sit very well with the public to put investor visas up to the highest bidder. I think we should be proud that we in the UK treat our immigration categories very seriously and in a considered way. Under the current system we expect people to make a significant investment in the UK.”

Nichola Carter, the principal solicitor of Carter Thomas, said it would be unworkable to check whether bidders were suitable to apply for residency. She said: “How are they going to vet people before auctions take place? The idea that any aspect of British citizenship is open to the highest bidder runs contrary to every message the Government has sent out.”

Sophie Barrett-Brown, a senior partner at Laura Devine Solicitors, said the Home Office had rightly rejected a proposed auction system on a previous occasion because it “sent out the wrong message to the public”.

Although the Home Office did not comment last night, it is expected eventually to veto the auction plan. It was critical of the Maltese move, warning it would not tolerate “abuse” of the EU’s free movement rules.

Just over 500 investor visas were issued in 2012-13, an increase of some 25 per cent on the previous 12 months. The largest number went to Chinese nationals, followed by Russians and Americans.

In December, David Cameron told business leaders during a visit to China: “If you are investing in Britain, invest more. If you are thinking of investing in Britain, come and find us. You will get a warm welcome.”

David Hanson, the shadow Immigration minister, said: “Our visa system should encourage entrepreneurs and investors to come to the UK and ensure people add value to Britain. We’ll look at the detail of these recommendations closely, but the visa system should be fair, effective and encourage proper social and economic investment in the UK in the areas it is needed.”

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
i100
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Arts and Entertainment
A shared vision: Cerys Matthews has been familiarising herself with Dylan Thomas’s material, for a revealing radio programme
arts + entsA singer, her uncle and a special relationship with Dylan Thomas
News
In other news ... Jon Snow performed at last year's Newsroom's Got Talent charity event
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
life
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?