Business Transformation

Hong Kong driving UK golden visa activity during the pandemic

Hong Kong

Research by Astons, the international experts on real estate, residency and citizenship through investment, has revealed the international makeup of the super-wealthy heading to the UK during the pandemic via the UK Tier 1 Investor visa.

The analysis shows that the number of main applicants for the program was down -20% in Q1 of 2021 when compared to their pre-pandemic level in Q4, 2019. With the number of dependents related to these main applicants also falling by -37%.

This pandemic-induced decline is also clear when looking at the estimated value of applications. Since the start of the pandemic, the program has generated £522m, a -41% drop when compared to the £904m generated during the equivalent time period prior to the outbreak of Covid in the UK.

Despite the inadvertent decline in the number of applications, the program continues to prove popular for many of the world’s super-wealthy.

Astons analysed the international make-up of applicants during the pandemic and found that since the start of 2020, Chinese nationals have accounted for an average of 24% of all main applications each quarter, as have Hong Kong nationals.

Russian and American nationals have also driven a large degree of activity accounting for an average of 9% of main applications each quarter.

America also accounts for the largest increase in applicants when comparing current levels to those seen prior to the pandemic, with an 11% increase in Q1, 2021 versus Q4, 2019. Again, China has also seen one of the largest uplifts at 8%, with South African applicants also up by 5%.

Managing Director of Astons, Arthur Sarkisian, commented: “The offer of the British National Overseas visa has spurred a large migration of Hong Kong nationals to British shores. However, this interest hasn’t been confined to the BNO visa alone and Hong Kong’s wealthy have continued to show strong interest in the UK Tier 1 Investor visa throughout the pandemic as an alternative path when relocating.

This interest has been driven largely by the quality of life on offer for an applicant’s dependents, with outstanding schools one of the driving factors for many. Despite an overall drop in UK Tier 1 activity as a result of the pandemic, we expect this interest to grow as travel restrictions start to lift and we return to a greater sense of normality.”

Change in UK tier 1 investor visa (issuance) pre-pandemic and current

Main applicants – visa issuance
2019 Q4: 56
2021 Q1: 45
Change (%): -20%

Dependents
2019 Q4: 112
2021 Q1: 71
Change (%): -37%

Change in UK tier 1 investor visa (estimated value) pre-pandemic and current

Main applicants – visa issuance
Pandemic 2020 Q1 – 2021 Q1: £522,000,000
Equivalent pre-pandemic: £904,000,000
Change £: -£382,000,000
Change %: -42%

Distribution of UK tier 1 investor visa by nationality

Nationality (main applicant only)2019 Q42020 Q12020 Q22020 Q32020 Q42021 Q1Pandemic Average 2020 Q1 - 2021 Q1Pandemic Change (%) 2019 Q4 - 2021 Q1
China21%16%35%24%17%29%24%8%
Hong Kong16%33%39%21%19%7%24%-9%
Other33%22%9%25%33%28%23%-6%
United States5%9%0%9%12%16%9%11%
Russia9%0%17%9%10%9%9%0%
India7%11%0%4%4%2%4%-5%
South Africa2%2%0%2%2%7%3%5%
Brazil0%0%0%2%2%2%1%2%
Canada5%2%0%2%0%0%1%-5%
South Korea0%2%0%1%0%0%1%0%
Australia2%2%0%1%0%0%1%-2%
Pakistan0%0%0%02%0%0%0%
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Prof. Dr. Amarendra Bhushan Dhiraj
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