The UK will simplify the visa application process for visitors from China, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has said.
Mr. Osborne, who is in Beijing, announced 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.
UK will also introduce a new 24 hour ‘super priority’ visa service in China from summer next year.
The UK 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, some 210,000 visas were issued to visiting Chinese nationals who contributed around £300 million to the British economy.
There are currently 39 weekly services between London and four 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.
“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,” Mr. Osborne said.
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.”