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Media captionThe European Commission says it is closely monitoring citizenship for sale programmes in the EU

A “gold-plated” visa scheme allowing foreign investors a fast-track to settling in Britain remains open, the Home Office has clarified.

Ministers had announced access to Tier 1 visas, which entice rich people from outside the EU to invest £2m or more in the UK, would be halted on 7 December.

They said an audit process would be introduced in response to concerns the scheme was being used to launder money.

But the Home Office said on Tuesday the scheme was “not currently suspended”.

“We remain committed to reforming the route,” a spokesman said. “A further announcement will be made in due course.”

More than 1,000 Tier 1 visas were granted in the year to September to people from a variety of nationalities. In previous years, the highest numbers have gone to Chinese and Russian investors.

Introduced in 2008, the scheme allowed foreign nationals to secure visas in return for a £2m investment and apply to settle in the UK indefinitely after five years.

In 2011, the government hoped to attract the “brightest and best” by allowing investors to cut the wait to just two years by investing £10m.

When originally announcing the scheme’s suspension Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes had said the government would not tolerate people who “seek to abuse the system”.

The Home Office has now said that, from next year, independent, regulated auditors will assess applicants’ financial and business interests and check they have had control of the funds for at least two years,

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