New Delhi: Fearing its misuse, the UK government plans to suspend a visa category used by many rich Indians, reported PTI on Thursday.  The Tier 1 Investor visa, referred to as a “golden visa” for the fast-track route to settlement rights in the UK is offered to those willing to invest millions in the UK. (Also read: Pak Issues Visas to Over 200 Indian Pilgrims)Also Read - Hong Kong Airport Bans Transit Travellers From 153 Countries, Including India Amid Rising COVID Cases

The golden visa will be suspended from Friday midnight until new rules are put in place next year. According to official figures, around 76 Indian millionaires have used this visa category to gain a permanent settlement in Britain since 2009. There were seven Indian applicants last year only. Also Read - Meta Faces $3.1 Billion Lawsuit in UK Over Exploiting Users' Data. What You Need to Know

“The UK will always be open to legitimate and genuine investors who are committed to helping our economy and businesses grow. However, I have been clear that we will not tolerate people who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the system,” said UK Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes. Also Read - UK Govt's Advisers Recommend Against 4th Vaccine Dose To Population Above 80 Years

Under the scheme being suspended, a 2 million pound investment bought a visa and indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after five years. An investment of 5 million pound cut down the eligibility period for ILR to three years and 10 million pound meant the investor could be eligible for permanent settlement within two years along with his or her dependents.

The UK Home Office had launched an investigation into Tier 1 Investor visas issued to wealthy Russians.  The Home Office had confirmed that its probe into the visa route would not be limited to just Russian billionaires and would form part of a wider crackdown on money laundering.

According to UK media reports, as part of new rules to come in force from next year, independent, regulated auditors will assess such high net worth applicants’ financial and business interests and check they have had control of the funds for at least two years.

The changes to the Tier 1 Investor scheme are part of wider reforms to the UK’s visa system. The Home Office is also replacing the Tier 1 Graduate and Entrepreneur visa routes with a Start-up visa route, announced in June, and the Innovator visa route.