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Bad Timing: As London Burns, U.K. Woos Hollywood Celebrities to Come Live There

George Clooney
Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images

England today enacts a new law whereby those who have won an Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe or BAFTA can become British citizens quickly and bypass the country's immigration crackdown.

Attention, Hollywood: Ever dream of becoming a British citizen? Now's your chance, but only A-listers need apply. On Aug. 9, the U.K. government unveiled Tier 1, an immigration category designed to attract "exceptional talent."  The category forms part of Britain's general effort to attract high-profile and high-net-worth individuals while simultaneously tightening up immigration  criteria for virtually everyone else.

To be eligible, applicants must have won an Academy Award, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe or an Emmy Award or have been nominated in the five years before applying. The government has set aside 300 spots for anyone who meets the requirements.

The benefits? If granted Tier 1 status, applicants can work in the U.K. without the need of a sponsor -- a strict requirement for not-so-exceptional types -- and set themselves on a path to permanent residence and citizenship.

Britain has become a hot spot for high-profile film productions, including World War Z with Brad Pitt, Gravity with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock and Hyde Park on Hudson, starring Bill Murray and Laura Linney

These stars are just the kind of leading lights that Britain wants to attract, but the new law does nothing to change the U.K.'s notoriously high tax rate. It doesn't help matters that a recent report by global investment firm Skandia found that more than 50 percent of U.K. millionaires are considering leaving the country due in part to high taxation.

"While the financial advantages of moving to the U.K. may not be immediately apparent, the professional kudos of establishing artistic credentials here have had a lasting appeal," says Amanda Weston, a leading U.K. immigration attorney at Tooks Chambers. "Appearing on the London stage has been known to give a critical boost to the careers of some Hollywood stars."

There is a more practical advantage to the category: It opens doors to producers seeking to book top stars and directors.

"It will allow producers more flexibility in securing leading talent from outside of the E.U. without the normal immigration requirements," notes Lisa Logan, an entertainment lawyer at the London office of Gateley Llp.

But will Hollywood come knocking? Ron Rehling, a Los Angeles-based immigration law specialist, believes many U.S. actors will welcome the chance to work in London with fewer legal hassles, but he has his doubts about long-term residency. "I'm not certain that qualified American entertainment professionals would reverse-commute to the U.K. with permanent intentions in mind."