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Attorney Maria Patsalos discusses UK’s investment immigration options

EB5Investors.com Staff

Maria Patsalos

By EB5 Investors Magazine Staff

Attorney Maria Patsalos is a partner in Mishcon Private department of Mishcon de Reya, specializing in immigration law. She has more than 10 years of experience advising individual and corporate clients on the United Kingdom’s points-based five-tier immigration system. Patsalos provides long-term strategic advice and helps her clients establish connections within the UK.

Patsalos also works with clients seeking political asylum, and she advises human rights organizations on immigration cases. She founded and supervises the immigration element of Pink Law, a free legal advice service for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals run via Queen Mary University of London.

Professionally, Patsalos has been recognized by both the Chambers and Legal 500 organizations, named to the 2015 Spears 500 list for top UK immigration lawyers, and listed in Private Client Practitioner’s Top 35 Under 35.

How would  you describe your company and what is unique about it? 

Mishcon de Reya's immigration practice is uniquely positioned to provide its clients with tailored solutions to their different immigration issues. We take the time to understand each client's priorities on a case-by-case basis and make the process as stress free as possible. We understand that personal circumstances rarely fit neatly into obvious immigration categories, and cultural nuances mean that clients may have different priorities.

Much of our work is about immigration solutions for high net worth individuals. Our extensive contacts throughout the Immigration and Nationality Services in the UK, and with visa issuing posts overseas, allow us to obtain exceptional and expeditious results for our clients.

Working with international tax advisors and private bankers, we make it possible for clients to best navigate the taxation regime in the UK.

Our private clients benefit from the comprehensive services that fall into our Mishcon Private offering, including family, tax, wealth structuring and a market-leading immigration practice. We have first-rate capabilities and strength across the key areas of support– corporate, employment, real estate, intellectual property and dispute resolution.

Based in London with offices in New York, Mishcon de Reya services an international community of clients and provides advice in situations where the constraints of geography often do not apply. The work we undertake is cross-border, multi-jurisdictional and complex. 

Do you think global immigration investment programs have benefited from the retrogression issues of the EB5 program?  

A lot of applicants may not wish to apply under the EB-5 program because of the extensive backlogs. By way of reference, the UK Investor visa can take only five working days to be processed using a Priority Service, which leads to certainty and confidence in the system.

What benefits do the UK program offer investors? What is the goal of this program for the country?

The Tier 1 (Investor) visa is the most flexible UK visa. The goal of the program is to attract high net worth individuals to the UK and for them not only to invest the minimum £2million but to also invest by way of purchasing a home, sending their kids to private fee-paying schools, employing staff, paying taxes and shopping.

How do you think Brexit will impact this program?

We have already seen an impact as we have noted an increase in Investor visa clients since the Brexit announcement. Previously, many clients applied for European citizenship through investment programs, such as Cyprus and Malta, to exercise their European Economic Area (EEA) treaty rights and move to the UK. These programs allow applicants to obtain passports in six months and one year, respectively, whereas the UK Investor visa route only allows an applicant to apply for British citizenship at the very earliest after five years. However, due to Brexit, we are now seeing more clients apply for the UK Investor visa rather than European passports due to the uncertainty surrounding European passport holders’ rights in the UK going forward.

How long is the process from applying to receiving citizenship or residency?

If applicants apply under the £2million investment route, they can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or permanent residency after five years and citizenship after six years. If they invest £5million, they can apply for ILR after three years and citizenship after five years, and if they invest £10milllion, they can apply for ILR after two years, but citizenship is still only available after five years. Also note that the accelerated £5million and £10million routes are only available to the main applicant and not the dependent family.

What are some things investors should be aware of and plan for when applying for this program?

Since 2015, it has been a requirement for applicants to have a UK bank account before they apply. This can take several months to navigate because UK banks conduct strict due diligence and source of funds checks.

Applicants are also now required to obtain criminal record checks before they apply, and this can take some jurisdictions considerable time.

Also, we are often asked if applicants can invest in property. It used to be the case that applicants could invest up to 25 percent of the investment amount in property for them to reside, but this is no longer the case, and the full 100 percent investment must be made in UK government bonds, corporate bonds, UK equities, or loan capital for UK registered companies.

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