Last month, the Home Office announced a number of new and improved visa services in China, including a 24-hour “super-priority” visa service, the expansion of mobile biometrics, and a new service enabling customers to apply for the British and Schengen visas at the same time. Minister for Immigration, James Brokenshire travelled to Beijing last month to promote the UK’s visa service to key tourism and business partners. News reports have highlighted how China has become the UK’s largest visa market and demand for visas has increased by 40% in the last year.
James Brokenshire: China is UK’s Largest Visa Market
The mobile biometric service, has proven to be successful in Shanghai and Beijing after gaining praise from customers using the service. The service will now be available at all 12 regions served by the Home Office’s visa application centres.
On 28 July 2014, whilst in Beijing, James Brokenshire also announced the introduction a 24-hour service in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. This service which starts today will be available to all business visitors, family visitors and general visitors.
James Brokenshire, stated the reasoning for wanting to improve visa services in China:
“China is the UK’s largest visa market and the number of business travellers and tourists we welcome continues to grow – demand for visitor visas increased by 40% in the last year alone. We already offer an excellent visa service in China and through the 24 hour visa service and the expansion of mobile biometrics, business visitors will be able to apply for their visas more quickly and easily. We want to make sure that we offer our Chinese customers a world class service and we will continue to make improvements so that our visa system is as efficient as possible, while at the same time protecting British borders.”
Another recent improvement made by the Home Office will allow Chinese visitors to apply for visas for Britain and Europe’s 26-country Schengen Area through a single application process. Changing the original process for Chinese visitors to the European Union who have to submit separate visa applications for the UK.
Chinese Tourism Rise due to simplification of the Visa Application Process
The Telegraph campaigned for ten months to simplify the visa rules for Chinese visitors. The previous scheme, required Chinese tourists to to have their fingerprints taken, pay higher fees and going through a lengthy application process. According to the head of retail and wholesale at Barclays, Richard Lowe, it is the cultural heritage throughout the UK that is attractive to Chinese visitors.
Earlier this year, the Barclays’ Tourist Dynamics report 2014 was published. According to the report, tourists will spend over £27 billion in the UK in 2017, an increase of 34% on 2013. The report found that in particular Chinese tourism in the UK is expected to grow by 84%, with visitors spending up to £1bn a year in the UK by 2017.
The UK is expected to see a strong growth in Chinese tourism spending thanks to the simplification of the visa application process. Richard Lowe commented:
“As George Osborne said, there should be no limit to the number of Chinese tourists who can visit. There’s a number of plans being put in place to allow that to happen and it’s important that those are followed through and as many Chinese visas who want visas do get them and can come and support the UK economy”
By 2017, China’s tourists (1.01bn) will be fifth on the list of countries that spend the most in the UK, behind the US (£2.92bn), France (1.79bn), Germany (1.66bn) and Australia (1.35bn).
Successful UK Visa Applications for Chinese Visitors & Businessmen
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