"I have never welcomed the weakening of family ties by politics or pressure" - Nelson Mandela.
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"When people's love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change". -
David Cameron.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

UK to relax visa rules for Chinese

Sunday saw Chancellor George Osborne announce plans to simplify the visa application process for Chinese visitors to the UK.

Under the new rules, Chinese nationals visiting Schengen countries will no longer be required to apply for a separate visitor visa for tourism to the UK if they apply through a designated travel agent.

"We are two great trading nations, with a shared interest in keeping the trade routes of the world open and free,” said Osborne on day one of his five-day trade trip to China.

The trip is the first of its kind since David Cameron sparked anger among Chinese officials when he met with the Dalai Lama in May last year. 

The streamlining of the visa process is aimed at boosting Chinese investment in UK infrastructure but will benefit wealthy Chinese visitors and business people alike.

The news was welcomed by the British Chambers of Commerce whose policy director Adam Marshall said the plans would cause UK businesses to “breathe a collective sigh of relief”.

Under the current visa system, Chinese Schengen visa holders are required to apply for a separate visitor visa for the UK at the cost of around GBP 200. The additional cost and bureaucracy involved in the process is thought to deter Chinese visitors from visiting the UK on their European tours.

Until now Theresa May, the home secretary, has blocked the move to simplify the visa process based on terrorism concerns.

The new scheme will see the existing mobile visa services of Beijing and Shanghai expanded to other major Chinese cities and a ‘super priority’ 24-hour visa service introduced. Applicants will be able to apply using the same form that is used for Schengen visa applications.

There has been an 800 per cent increase in Chinese visitors to the UK over the past decade according to the WorldPay payment service. Yet the UK only receives seven per cent of the total number of Chinese visitors to the EU. Last year, nearly 200,000 Chinese visitors visited the UK and spent around GBP 300m.

The move to streamline UK visas for Chinese nationals is not thought to signal an overall relaxation in visa restrictions for national of other countries, with government plans to trial a controversial new visa bond scheme which will target nationals of certain ‘high risk’ countries still under discussion.

Meanwhile nationals of other non-EEA countries continue to struggle to fulfill the UK’s difficult visitor visa requirements.

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