The UK is one of the most sought after expat destinations, especially for wealthy people with the number of investor visas increasing sevenfold, according to recent data obtained by leading commercial law firm, Pinsent Masons.
The number of investor visas granted increased from just 43 in 2008 to 320 last year and among the biggest growth is in the number of Russians seeking entry through this route.
The largest number of investor visas was issued to Russian nationals at 27% followed by Chinese investors at 15% since it was introduced in April 2008.
The investor visa allows high net worth individuals to invest and remain in the UK for three years and is often seen as a fast track process for wealthy foreign nationals to acquire British citizenship.
‘The nationality of the applicants for investor visas reflects those who are buying prime property in London. Many of these Russians will put their children through school in the UK and will use the investor visa mechanism as a means of acquiring British citizenship for those children once they reach their majority,’ explained Nick Thomas, partner at Pinsent Masons.
For decades now the UK has welcomed Russian nationals and their often substantial wealth. In the early 1970′s it is thought there were only about 70 Russians residing in the South East of England. This figure has risen markedly with estimates published by the Office for National Statistics in 2009 suggesting a Russian born population in the UK of 32,000 with the total number of people of Russian decent close to 300,000.
London is often these days referred to fondly as Londongrad or Moscow-on-the-Thames and is the main focal point for Russian expats with over 300,000 Russians thought to call the Capital city home.
Numerous oligarchs including Boris Berezocsky and the Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich own luxurious homes in the city, often seen as a status symbol of their massive wealth and business achievements.
But it’s not just the London real estate market which is benefiting from the influx of wealthy Russian buyers. Keen to fully embrace quintessential British life, Russian nationals are now looking further afield to the Home Counties for their next purchases where green space and a sense of community abound.
James Wyatt, partner of estate agency Barton Wyatt located in Virginia Water has seen an influx of Russians looking for property in this top end niche area of Surrey.
‘Overseas buyers accounted for 55% of total sales in the first quarter of 2012 making this sector a highly lucrative market for us,’ he said.
‘Russian buyers comprise a significant proportion but they have high expectations. They are not content with older properties in need of renovation, they desire to own the very best that money can buy, brand new grand homes, dressed to perfection and key ready,’ he explained.
One area which has proven particularly attractive to Russian business tycoons is the exclusive Wentworth Estate in Virginia Water. James Wyatt has seen a rise in the number of Russian buyers on the estate in the past 18 months, attracted by the privacy, 24 hour security and on-site amenities.
Home to some of the UK’s largest, most lavish new build mansions, properties on the Wentworth estate semm to match Russian buyer demands.