Theresa May opposes relaxing UK visa regulations for Chinese

16 Aug 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

A leaked letter has revealed that the home secretary Theresa May is opposed to government efforts to make it easier for Chinese tourists to obtain UK visas.

In the letter, which was sent by her staff to the prime minister's office and leaked to the Daily Telegraph, Ms May stated that relaxing regulations for the Chinese would present a national security risk.

The issue is somewhat contentious given that culture secretary Jeremy Hunt this week unveiled an £8 million marketing strategy designed to treble the number of Chinese visitors to the UK by 2015 on the back of the success of the London Olympics.

Mr Hunt admitted that Chinese visitors are currently somewhat put off from visiting the UK due to the delays and complexity involved in obtaining a UK visa. The fact that the UK is not a member of the Schengen Agreement with other European countries is particularly problematic as visitors are required to apply to visit Britain separately.

Ms May, however, remarked in the leaked letter that the checks conducted on immigrants and visitors in Europe "do not match the UK decision quality", adding that the UK visa controls in place at the moment are "a key tool in protecting the public against significant harm".

"The proposal ... is not acceptable to the home secretary for national security reasons," the letter adds. "We also face significant challenges with foreign national offenders and organised crime including drugs, money laundering, fraud, criminal finances, intellectual property, immigration and cyber crime."

Chinese visitors represent a significant lucrative market to the British economy and as such they are a group of people the government is keen to encourage with more accessible immigration policies. It remains to be seen if the opinion expressed in Ms May's letter will have a negative impact on progress towards a simpler visa arrangement.