Today (14 October 2013) in Beijing the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced a number of measures to simplify and streamline the visa application process for visitors from China.
The Chancellor announced three key steps, the first of which is the introduction of a new pilot scheme which will allow selected Chinese travel agents to apply for UK visas by submitting the EU’s Schengen visa form, rather than two separate applications. This will reduce duplication for agents taking tourists to both the UK and the Schengen area.
There will also be a new 24 hour ‘super priority’ visa service is to be made available from summer next year.
The government is also looking at the expansion of the successful VIP mobile visa service, currently operating in Beijing and Shanghai, to the whole country. This service enables visa teams to go to applicants to collect their completed forms and biometric data, with the whole process taking less than five minutes.
China is one of the UK’s priority markets for tourism and business. In 2012, 210,000 visas were issued to visiting Chinese nationals who went on to contribute around £300 million to the British economy. There are currently 39 weekly services between London and 4 cities in China. Chinese students make up the largest group of foreign nationals in UK schools and universities. The UK is also the number one destination for Chinese investment in Europe, attracting nearly £2 billion in the last year alone and more than 600 Chinese businesses who now have a presence in the UK.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said
These changes will streamline and simplify the visa application process for Chinese visitors, while ensuring the system is strong and secure. This is good news for British business and tourism.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, said
We are continuing to attract the brightest and best to work and study in the UK, while preventing immigration abuse and bringing net migration down to the tens of thousands.
Our Chinese visa system already provides an excellent service and figures demonstrate that Chinese tourists are increasingly choosing to visit the UK. We will continue to make further improvements wherever possible for visitors travelling independently or as part of a group.
The UK already offers a competitive service to Chinese visa applicants, including:
12 Visa Application Centres across China, more than any other country outside Asia.
An optional five day priority visa service for eligible tourists, business visitors and skilled workers.
Guides on the visa application process in Chinese for business visitors, independent travellers and Approved Destination Status travellers.
A Prime Time service in six of our Visa Application Centres, offering extended opening hours for those who need the convenience of an appointment outside of usual business hours.
96% of Chinese visa applications to the UK are approved and (non-settlement) visas were processed on average in less than seven days in the first half of 2013.
The upward trend in applications from China underlines the importance of investing in our visa process and facilitating the enormous opportunity this presents to the UK.