This week, The Home Secretary Theresa May delivered a keynote speech which confirmed the continued investment the UK government will make in order to attract tourist and business visitors from China.
In August this year we reported that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) had launched improvements to the UK visa service in China, which included additional visa officers to assist in the peak summer period and a dedicated service for tourist groups through the Approved Destination Scheme (ADS).
According to Wednesday’s official UKBA statement the visa service has been operating well, “with 50% of visas processed within 5 days and 97% within 15 days.” However, in response to feedback from customers, Ms May announced that the original initiatives will be supplemented by further enhancements to the UK visa service operating in China.
The changes can be summarised as follows:
- Simplified Approved Destination Scheme (ADS) process: to include a shortened online application form and streamlined requirements for ADS customers.
- Assistance for business: a business network has been established, with dedicated Embassy staff to assist businesses with their UK visa requirements.
- Passport pass-back: a service for business travellers and ADS tourists which allows customers to keep their passport while their visa is being processed. This means they can travel or apply for another visa if they need to, reducing the time it takes to get two visas.
- Visa training for agents: a new online visa training module for the Brit Agent network in China so they can better assist Chinese customers wanting to travel to the UK.
- Convenient biometric capture: a mobile biometric service which will be available to applicants who wish to have their biometric information taken at a location more convenient to them, rather than visiting a visa application centre.
- Priority visa eligibility: expanded to include Tier 4 students and those who have previously travelled within the Schengen area.
- Improved application processes: improvements to the online application process (in April 2013) including the introduction of translated application forms.
- An enhanced Select Business Scheme: the enhanced scheme will remove the onerous reporting requirements that have made it cumbersome and bureaucratic for many companies.
The improvements should make a real difference to Chinese visitors hoping to travel to the UK, and in particular the changes affecting business travellers will come as welcome news for companies who need to transfer assignees to the UK on short notice.
We look forward to seeing the results of these changes and hope that they will encourage Chinese nationals who may have been put off visiting the UK by complicated and length visa application processes in the past.