Britain proved to be a growing attraction for business investors from China last year, with the number of entrepreneur visas issued to Chinese nationals more than doubling to 116.
The visas allow holders to start a UK business and earn fast-track citizenship.
This compares with an annual rise of 13 per cent to 127 for US nationals, according to figures obtained by law firm Pinsent Masons for the Financial Times.
The news comes as David Cameron prepares to visit Beijing in early December, when he is expected to say Britain is open to Chinese investment. It also supports growing evidence that the Chinese are becoming a stronger business influence in the UK, with stakes in Heathrow, Manchester’s “Airport City” and in Thames Water.
Entrepreneur visas allow foreign nationals to gain UK citizenship if their business fulfils criteria on access to funding, job creation or other measures of success. If, after three years, visa holders can demonstrate they have created 10 permanent jobs in the UK or generated income of at least ￡5m, they will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
The total number of entrepreneur visas rose 87 per cent to 973 in 2012-13, up from 520 in 2011-12 and 293 the year before.
“Twenty years ago, the dream for young professionals from China and other emerging markets was to get a ‘Green Card’ to work on Wall Street or Silicon Valley,” said Jill Turner, head of corporate immigration at Pinsent Masons.
“But London is now seen as just as exciting. Ambitious and talented Chinese entrepreneurs are flooding to the UK to take advantage of the opportunities being created by the economic recovery here, especially in .?.?. sectors such as technology, pharmaceuticals and financial services.”
Ms Turner said the visas were popular because Britain was one of the fastest-growing economies, with an annualised growth rate of more than 3 per cent, making it an attractive place to start a business.
Julie Wilson, who is head of the China desk at UHY Hacker Young, an accountancy firm, said Chinese investors were coming to London because they saw it as the centre of Europe.
“If they want to work outside China, the first stop is Europe. Often those applying for these visas are young graduates who want to import the family businesses into the UK,” she said.
Other observers said one reason for the increase was last year’s closure of a visa scheme that allowed international students to stay on and work in the UK after their course had finished.
上述消息传出之际，英国首相戴维?卡梅伦(David Cameron)计划于12月初访问北京，预计届时他会表示，英国将打开大门欢迎中国投资。该消息也佐证了一个日益明显的迹象，即中国人在英国的商业影响力正变得越来越大——中国人在希思罗机场(Heathrow)、曼彻斯特机场“空港城”以及泰晤士水务(Thames Water)都拥有权益。
UHY Hacker Young会计师事务所的中国部门主管朱莉?威尔逊(Julie Wilson)表示，中国投资者来到伦敦是因为他们认为这里是欧洲的中心。