James Brokenshire, the UK's immigration minister, has announced two improvements to the UK's visa system in China. Mr Brokenshire says that the changes should make it easier for Chinese applicants to apply for and obtain UK visas.
The changes are
- The 'mobile biometric service' will now be available to customers at all twelve of the UK's visa offices in China. Hitherto, the service has only been available in Shanghai and Beijing. The service visits offices and homes and collects biometric data from busy visa applicants who do not wish to visit the visa application centre.
- There will for an additional charge be a 24-hour premium visa service for most visitor and work visa applicants. 'The 24 Hour Super Priority Service' will now be available for applicants in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Mr Brokenshire said 'China is the UK's largest visa market and the number of business travellers and tourists we welcome continues to grow - demand for visitor visas increased by 40% in the last year alone'.
UK wants Chinese investmentThe UK hopes that changes to its visa system will lead to an increase in the number of visitors and investors from China.
In June this year, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, said that the UK must reform its visa system or miss out on Chinese investment. Mr Liu said that Chinese companies were finding it hard to get visas for important staff and said 'I do wish more progress will be made on this issue'.
Since July, Chinese nationals who have Schengen visas are allowed to use those visas to visit the UK.
SchengenThe Schengen Area is an area established by treaty which has abolished border controls between the 26 Schengen member Countries. Therefore, entry into one Schengen country will allow entry to all. The Schengen Area includes almost all European Union countries as well as Norway and Iceland.
The UK is not in the Schengen Area. Many Chinese nationals were deterred from visiting the UK because of the need to apply for a separate visa to visit the UK. However, despite this the UK as a special concession to Chinese nationals will allow entry of Chinese nationals to the UK who have Schengen visas.
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