Measures to simplify and streamline the visa application process for Chinese travellers to the UK were confirmed by the government yesterday.
As widely predicted, the three key steps include introducing a pilot scheme to allow selected Chinese travel agents to apply for UK visas by submitting just 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.
A new 24-hour ‘super priority’ visa service will become available from summer next year.
The expansion of a VIP mobile visa service, currently operating in Beijing and Shanghai, is likely to cover 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.
Confirmation of the plans came as part of a trade mission to Beijing led by Chancellor George Osborne, who 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."
Home Secretary Theresa May added: “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.”
China is seen as one of the UK's priority markets for tourism and business.
A total of 210,000 visas were issued to visiting Chinese nationals last year who contributed around £300 million to the British economy, according to government figures.
There are currently 39 weekly air services between London and four cities in China.
The announcement on visas coincided with Manchester Airports Group revealing a joint venture agreement with Beijing Construction Engineering Group, Carillion PLC and the Greater Manchester Pension Fund to support the development of the £800 million Airport City project at Manchester Airport.
Airport City will be the core element of a government-designated Enterprise Zone surrounding the UK’s third-busiest airport.
The objective is to help attract international businesses that could contribute an additional 16,000 jobs in the northwest of England.
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