Chancellor George Osborne is making a week long trade trip to China in a bid to attract more investment from Chinese companies, the BBC reported today.
During his visit to China, the chancellor unveiled plans to make it easier for Chinese nationals to visit the UK, in order to demonstrate that the UK is open to trade and investment, as well as to strengthen the understanding between the UK and China. The simplified system for visa applications will mean that Chinese nationals booking with certain travel agents to visit the EU will not need to submit separate UK visa applications.
Osborne also said that China is a rapidly changing country and is at the forefront of medicine, computing and technology. He believes that British attitudes to China should change from the general perception that “China as a sweat shop on the Pearl River.”
Chinese visitors can reportedly apply for a single visa to visit most of Europe, but currently require a separate visa for travel to the UK. This extra paperwork is said to deter Chinese visitors from including the UK in a trip to Europe. The new plans will include the expansion of a mobile visa scheme that already operates in Beijing and Shanghai, whereby officials go to applicants to collect their paperwork and biometric data. A 24-hour ‘super priority’ visa service will also be available from next summer.
During 2012, there were some 210,000 visas reportedly issued to Chinese visitors to the UK, who contributed approximately GBP300m to the economy.
Adam Marshall, director of policy at business lobby group the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), commented: “British companies doing business with China, as well as those who count on Chinese tourism in the UK, will breathe a collective sigh of relief at these measures to streamline the visa process. For too long, Britain has courted Chinese investment and tourism without facilitating the entry of Chinese visitors with the same vigour.
“If these changes help attract more Chinese business and leisure visitors, they should be expanded to include other key markets where British companies are working hard to develop two-way trade. A responsive visa system is crucial to demonstrating that the UK is open to trade and investment.”