The UK and Belgian governments today announced a new pilot scheme to further streamline visa application processes for Chinese visitors to the UK, Belgium and the wider Schengen area.
Under the new UK-Belgian Visitor Service, Chinese customers will be able to submit visa applications for both countries during a single visit to a UK visa application centre (VAC).
One stop shop
The new scheme means visitors from China will be able to obtain a visa for both the UK and the Schengen area – of which the UK is not a part – without having to visit two different application centres.
The new process will be introduced as a pilot scheme at the UK’s Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai visa application centres and will be available from 1 July.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
The number of Chinese visitors coming to the UK continues to soar.
We already offer an excellent visa service in China and have made a number of changes to create a quicker and easier process for customers.
This scheme will create a one-stop shop for Chinese visitors to the UK and Europe, whether they are coming here for business or leisure.
We will continue to make sure our visa services are world-class to ensure that our borders are protected and that Britain remains open for business.
Under Schengen visa rules, successful Belgian visa applicants can also travel freely within any of the 25 other Schengen Area countries.
Making it easier for Chinese visitors
The new service is the latest in a series of initiatives to make it easier for tourists from around the world to visit the UK as well as the Schengen Area. Chinese visa applicants using the UK online system can already have their details uploaded automatically to the Schengen form to save time.
Now this new initiative will allow customers to apply and pay for UK and Belgian visa applications online – using just one set of supporting documents – then book a single UK visa appointment to complete the process.
The launch of the UK-Belgian Visitor Service has been welcomed by business groups.
Andrew Murphy, Chairman of UK China Visa Alliance, said:
We warmly welcome the Government’s announcement. It reflects one of the key recommendations of our ‘Building on Progress’ report which we launched in June 2014 with the Home Secretary.
The UK needs to present, as much as possible, a one-stop shop for Chinese visitors who want both a Schengen and UK visa. This pilot, combined with the shared application form, goes a long way towards delivering this.