The U.K. has operated an immigration route for investors since 1994. Until 2004, investor applicants had to make the U.K. their main home and were required to hold at least £1 million in the U.K. and to invest £750,000 in U.K. government bonds, stocks or corporate bonds.

In 2004, a changed in regulations permitted investment funds to be sourced through a loan from a U.K. regulated financial institution, provided that the applicant had a net worth of at least twice the value of the investment.

Significant changes were made to the program in 2008, with the introduction of a points-based system. The Tier 1 (Investor) route was established for high-net-worth individuals wishing to invest at least £1 million in the UK.

In 2011, the government introduced provisions for accelerated settlement for those investing larger sums. For the standard £1 million threshold, investors could settle after five years and apply for citizenship after six years. The settlement qualifying period was reduced to three years or two years for those investing at least £5 million or £10 million respectively; investors on these schemes could apply for citizenship after five years. Residence requirements were also relaxed in 2011, permitting up to 180 days of absence per year for investors.

In late 2014, the government announced the minimum investment would be raised to £2 million, all of which was now required to be invested in U.K. companies or government bonds.

Uptake for the program has grown rapidly since 2008. In 2014, there were 1,173 main applicants and 1,827 dependents, roughly double the numbers of 2013. From 2008 to the end of 2014, more than 8,000 people came to the U.K. on the Tier 1 scheme, of which nearly 3,000 were main applicants. The increase has been led by Russian and Chinese citizens. Chinese applicants made up 48% of main applicants in 2014, compared to just 9% in 2009.