The UK Border Agency has been working to improve its visa services in China in light of the rapid increase in numbers of Chinese nationals visiting the UK for tourism or business purposes.
The number of UK visas issued to Chinese visitors rose by 30% in 2011 when compared to the figures for 2010, and was almost 80% higher than the number of visas issued in 2009.
Accordingly, steps have been taken to make the visa process smoother and more straightforward, with the intention of supporting the £8 million investment in tourism from China which has been announced by the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport.
The UK Border Agency now has more visa application centres in China than any other country and offers a priority service for eligible visitors and tourists to receive their visas within five days.
Improvements made to the UK visa service in China can be summarised as follows:
• 150 additional visa officers will assist during the peak summer period;
• online application forms will be implemented to streamline the visa application process;
• 72 agents provide a dedicated service for tourist groups through the Approved Destination Scheme (ADS);
• upgrading of the three busiest visa application centres in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to meet increasing demand, including VIP facilities for Premium Visa service customers;
• an online appointment system to reduce customer waiting times at application centres;
• a Chinese language website;
• translated guidance to complete the visitor visa application form and a free-to-use Chinese language telephone and email enquiry service.
We welcome these changes and hope that they will make the visa process easier and quicker for all Chinese nationals who are seeking to holiday or work in the UK.