The British Ambassador to China has said that the British government is looking to reform the UK visa service in order to attract more Chinese people to the country.
Ambassador Sebastian Wood told Chinese publication, People Daily: “We're doing a number of things to encourage more Chinese tourists to visit, including gradually improving and simplifying visa application services.”
He added that there are now 12 UK visa application centres across China, noting that the network is a great help to anyone looking to visit Britain. In fact, last year, the system helped to deliver nearly 300,000 visitor UK visas to Chinese nationals, a 40 per cent increase on the previous year.
Importantly, the vast majority – 96 per cent – of these applications were successful, suggesting that the recent reforms to the visa system are proving effective.
Britain has come under criticism for its approach to visas in the past, and particularly its refusal to join the Schengen agreement with other European countries. The agreement means that visitors from outside of the European Economic Area only need to apply for one visa in order to access 26 European countries, who share an arrangement with tourist visas. By refusing to join, Britain is thought to be missing out on potentially millions of pounds of income from overseas tourism.
While the Schengen option is not currently being discussed, the Coalition Government has recently introduced a new 'super priority' UK visa service that is available to Chinese people and others who are able to pay an extra fee. The fee means that the visa can usually be turned around within 24 hours, making it that bit easier for travelers to consider Britain as a holiday or business destination.