The Home Secretary Theresa May has today confirmed the importance of China as a priority growth market for tourism and business visitors, with the announcement of a package of further enhancements to the UK visa service.
The visa service is already delivering well, with 50% of visas processed within five days and 97% within 15 days, but customers have asked for a fast, transparent, simple and easy to access service which is tailored to their individual needs.
Home Office said that these new measures form part of a programme of continual improvement to the visa service, designed to meet these needs and to ensure that the UK remains an attractive option for tourism and business visitors.
The visa service changes include
Simplified Approved Destination Scheme (ADS) process: including shortened online application form and streamlined requirements for ADS customers.
Assistance for business: a business network has been established, with dedicated Embassy staff to assist businesses with their UK visa requirements.
Passport pass-back: a service for business travellers and ADS tourists which allows customers to keep their passport while their visa is being processed. This means they can travel or apply for another visa if they need to, reducing the time it takes to get two visas.
Visa training for agents: a new online visa training module for the Brit Agent network in China so they can better assist Chinese customers wanting to travel to the UK.
Convenient biometric capture: a mobile biometric service which will be available to applicants who wish to have their biometric information taken at a location more convenient to them, rather than visiting a visa application centre.
Priority visa eligibility: expanded to include Tier 4 students and those who have previously travelled within Schengen .
Improved application processes: improvements to the online application process (in April 2013) including the introduction of translated application forms.
An enhanced Select Business Scheme: the enhanced scheme will remove the onerous reporting requirements that have made it cumbersome and bureaucratic for many companies.