Despite the uncertainty of Brexit, the United Kingdom remains an extremely popular location for citizens for MENA countries who are looking to live and bring up their families in a safe and secure environment.
The country has a very long established legal system and with a highly independent judiciary ensuring the operation of the rule of law in a highly sophisticated business environment.
Many citizens of MENA countries have taken advantage of the UK’s Tier 1 (Investor) program, which allows high net worth individuals who are willing to bring at least GBP2million to invest in the UK to reside in the UK with their spouse/partners and children under eighteen years. Permanent residence rights in the UK can be obtained under the Tier 1 (Investor) category after five years on the basis of an investment of GBP2million, and the right to permanent residence can be accelerated by a more substantial investment. An investment of GBP5million can lead to permanent residence after three years and an investment of GBP10million after two years.
Investment in each case has to be made into either the share or loan capital of registered UK trading companies, not primarily engaged in property business. The Tier 1 (Investor) can undertake work or other business activities in the UK with very limited restrictions and the same applies to family members accompanying them to the UK.
Another very popular route for citizens of MENA countries to acquire residence rights in the UK, is using the category “Representative of an Overseas Business”. This category has been in the UK Immigration rules for many years but is often overlooked.
The category of “Representative of an Overseas Business” allows a MENA company, which has no branch or subsidiary in the UK, to send one key individual to establish a UK branch 100 per cent owned subsidiary of the MENA parent company. There must be a genuine business reason for wishing to establish a UK branch or subsidiary company, and it has to operate in a similar field as the parent company, which also needs to remain in existence as the headquarters of the business.
The individual chosen to act as the company’s representative can be a director, shareholder, or senior employee of the parent company, but cannot be the owner or majority shareholder of the parent company.
The representative is allowed to bring their spouse/partner and children to the UK with them, and potentially can qualify for permanent residence after five years.
There are no minimum capital requirements for this route, but there is a requirement for the UK representative to be paid a good salary in UK terms by the MENA parent company for carrying out duties in the UK as the Managing Director of the UK branch/subsidiary.
There may also be opportunities for MENA clients to come to the UK under the sponsorship route of Tier 2 in specific circumstances and specifically where an applicant is proposing to invest in a UK business.
With the abolition of the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route at the end of March 2019 and the recent introduction of the new Innovator visa, which is not yet working properly in practice, specialist professional advice is required to ensure that all possible options for UK immigration are considered by clients.
The UK remains a highly attractive location for foreign investors, particularly recently as a result of a lowering of the value of the pound and therefore the cost of property in the UK for foreign investors. Many families from MENA countries also like to take advantage of the excellent English private school system to educate their children.