A number of reforms to visa processing for Chinese visitors to the United Kingdom were announced on Wednesday by British Prime Minister David Cameron following the Chinese Premier’s recent visit to the UK.
Key among these is that, from January 2016, 2-year multiple entry visas for Chinese visitors will be reduced from £324 to £85 — the cost of a standard 6-month visa.
The PM also announced that the Government is planning to reduce the cost of 10-year visas from £747 to £85, although no date has been set for this as yet.
“China is becoming one of our fastest-growing tourism markets so making it easier and more convenient for Chinese visitors to come to the UK is extremely important”, Prime Minister David Cameron said. “That is why the announcement I’m making today is great news for our tourism industry and great news for the British economy enabling us to maximise Chinese spending power even further.”
According to the PM, the reforms mean that the UK has the best offer in Europe for Chinese tourists and will strengthen UK-China relations further.
Other reforms include:
– Extending the reach of the on-demand mobile visa service in China. This service allows customers to provide their biometric data at one of 17 locations rather than being required to travel to a visa application centre.
– Upgrading the 12 visa application centres and offering out of working hours appointments.
– Extending the 3 to 5 day priority service.
– Introducing a passport pass-back service, which allows customers to apply for the UK and Schengen visa at the same time.
– Launch of a new online application form, with fewer questions, translated guidance and giving the option of pre-populating a Schengen form at the same time.
– Offering Premium service lounges in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou visa application centres, reducing waiting times for applicants and offering personalised assistance at every stage.
– Developing a dedicated team based in the British Embassy in Beijing which supports business, tourism and education sectors with their visa needs.
– Reducing documentary requirements for the Chinese government-endorsed Approved Destination Scheme (ADS) for Chinese tour groups and repeat travellers.
“The industry has been pressing hard, led by the UK Tourism Alliance, for a reduction in the cost of UK visas to Chinese visitors. This shows that the government has been listening”, said the CEO of the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA), Tom Jenkins.
Mr Jenkins said it was “heartening” that governments are starting to tailor requirements for each market as up until now it was “one size fits all”, whether visa applicants were Indian, Chinese or Russian.
“We are not at the stage where clients can fill in the forms in their own alphabet (let alone language), but this is a step in the right direction”, he added.
According to VisitBritain, Chinese visitors stay longer with an average holiday length of 10 nights compared to 6 across all inbound visits. British fashion brands are particularly popular with the Chinese, and visiting a luxury store is also reflected in high-spend across the Chinese market, with almost 40 percent of Chinese visitors heading for shopping at luxury stores.