Home secretary Theresa May is set to relax the UK visa regulations for Chinese nationals to encourage more people to travel through the country and potentially bring more money to British shores.
Ms May is to announce that the UK transit visa regime will be relaxed so that Chinese travellers with a Schengen visa will be able to travel through Britain in order to get to their European destination country without requiring a separate UK visa. It is thought that some 210,000 Chinese visitors a year will be affected by this.
Meanwhile, people with valid visas from the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada will also no longer be required to hold UK visas to transit through the country, even if they are not en route to the country in which the visa was issued.
Despite the changes, the relaxation of the regulations has been deemed insufficient by many who are still calling for the UK to consider joining the Schengen visa scheme that allows travellers to access multiple European countries with just one visa application.
Darren Claplan, the Airport Operators Association chief executive responded in an interview with the Financial Times: “[The changes] do nothing to help the UK secure additional air routes from these developing countries, the viability of which often depend on the smallest margins.”
The association added that the government should be looking at cutting the costs of visas to the cost level of £136, instead of the current five and ten-year UK visa prices, which stand at £511 and £737 respectively.
Mr Claplan added: “This would encourage customers to trade up to a five or ten-year visa from a standard six-month visa, thus saving the Home Office money and providing them with an incentive to undertake multiple trips to the UK and contribute more the the UK economy.”