More Indians, across age groups, economic levels and professions are moving abroad than ever before. Indians can now take advantage of a slew liberalized visa rules to emigrate to Britain, Yash Dubal, Director of London-based A Y & J Solicitors, who specialize in immigration to the United Kingdom told Moneycontrol.
The UK government's broad move to lower investment limits, ease visa terms and ensure more flexibility in rules comes at a time when the demand to move abroad is rising fast, be it among professionals or students. The only thing holding back Indian citizens is the lack of awareness, Dubal stresses. Edited Excerpts.
How many people have been helped by your firm to move abroad till now ?
In the course of the last few years, we have helped around 4000 clients. We are specialized in UK immigration. We help people get their UK visas so that they can work in the UK or reunite with their family with a view of getting permanent residency or British passport. While this includes mainly professionals, we also help businesses in UK to bring their overseas skilled staff, which is when the sole representative visa comes in.
What is the sole representative visa ?
Many small and medium enterprises from India can expand to the UK with very little investment through the sole representative visa. But there is a lack of awareness as to how they can take the benefit of this beautiful program where they need to just invest literally very little money and they can have exposure to UK market.
We have been successful in helping companies to expand to the UK through this. It is the best program ever that I can think of, for even small businesses to large multinational companies to expand to the UK.
How is it different from the United States' EB-5 visa program or other visa regimes globally ?
So, the sole representative visa is for someone who is not a majority shareholder in the business but a senior member of staff like a Director. It allows such individuals to migrate to the UK for the purpose of expanding the business to the UK. Typically, that representative will arrive in the UK to set up a branch office, and then apply for business license from the government. Then they can bring in more staff - as many as you need from India - to the UK for manning the branch office.
What is the minimum investment required ?
There is no minimum investment requirement. But ideally, when we prepare the application, we suggest that businesses should have at least 50,000 pounds worth disposable funds to invest in UK to set up a branch office which amounts to a very nominal amount of Rs. 50 lakhs. If any business has that sort of money, they don't need to invest again.
Also, they don't need to invest Rs. 50 lakhs straight away. They need to demonstrate to the government that they can get this visa based on their financial strength. They need to show they have that amount in their bank account, which can be spent, if needed on setting up a branch office. We as lawyers managed to get a lot of sole representative visa applications approved based on that.
But what are some of the restrictions ?
A restriction or probably a small hiccup is that majority shareholders are barred from using this visa. But now with the new immigration rules, they can buy a UK business and then they can sell sponsor themselves for work permit. This investment criteria may be 200-300,000 pounds. So we are talking about Rs. 2-3 crore. This is not as big as the Rs. 20 crore needed to enter the tier one investment visa route.
That was the only route open till December 2020. Since January 2021, with post Brexit immigration rules coming in, the UK Government is now more liberal and more welcoming of foreign investment. Through the new self sponsorship rules, after five years permanent residency is given and in total six years time, one can get a British passport. It's same for every other category.
So this is a new route to permanent residency being opened up ?
It was always there. But nobody was promoting it because their remuneration rules were more tighter. Prior to December 2020, if someone wanted to self sponsor themselves, then they would end up paying about Rs. 5 crore in income tax there. So people were not inclined to do it. Instead, they preferred the entrepreneur investor route, which in turn, took was about Rs. 20 crore worth of investments. Now with the immigration rule changes, with a with a tiny amount of income tax they can acquire a business, and self sponsor yourself for a work permit.
What has been the interest of Indian businesses in expanding to the UK post-Brexit ?
Indian companies of course want to reap commercial benefit by targeting the UK and European market. After Brexit, everyone across the world is on a same level field. I think India Indian businesses has a huge opportunity to penetrate into the UK market. This is because now the EU is not prioritized and the UK treats every country as the same.
People are very keen to expand. I was born and brought up in Gujarat. I'm currently visiting the state and I see a huge desire among entrepreneurs here, to expand. They are very competitive and ahead in their game. But not many Indian businesses are aware of the sole representative visa.
Overall how has the demand for immigration to UK been from India in 2021 so far ?
It has been growing fast, across demographic categories. The UK is now offering two years of post-study visa. It means that if you have done any bachelor's, master's or qualifying course, you get you get two years of free work permit. So you can work literally anywhere, in any business or you can also run a business. This free work permit offer is lucrative for Indian students because he will get two years to recoup their investment at the least. The obvious major benefit is that once you have the post study visa, you can develop a rapport with a UK employer and it leads to even more chance that you will get a further work permit with the UK employer. So it is more likely that you will end up staying there and then settle their for life.People also do move to the UK for various reasons. Despite having a super rich lifestyle in India, High or Ultra high net worth individuals like to move in search of a better lifestyle, sense of security and better infrastructure. These have the highest priorities for them.