UK immigration launches new visa regime for Chinese applicants

The UK's Home Secretary, Theresa May, has announced a series of reforms to the UK's visa regime to make it easier for Chinese nationals to come to the UK.

Over the last few years there have been problems in the UK's relations with China; particularly so since the meeting between UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists in May 2012.

But in 2013, two British trade missions travelled to China and a number of trade deals were announced. Some relaxation of the visa rules for tourists were announced by the UK's Chancellor (finance minister) George Osborne during his visit to China.

'We would like to see liberalisation'

Senior Chinese figures continued to complain that more was required. On 13th June, the Chinese ambassador in London, Liu Xiaoming said 'We would like to see liberalisation of restrictions on visas on Chinese business people and Chinese tourists'.

The UK announced the changes to the visa regime during a state visit to the UK by China's Prime Minister, Ki Keqiang.

The main changes are

  • All Chinese nationals with Schengen Area visas are to be able to use these visas to visit the UK as well
  • All Chinese nationals with short stay visas to be able to use Irish visas to enter the UK. A reciprocal arrangement with Ireland means that those with UK visas will be able to visit Ireland too
  • For those Chinese nationals wishing to apply for a UK visa, there will be a premium 24-hour visa service, for a much higher fee of £600
  • There will be 12 application centres across China to make it easier for Chinese nationals to submit UK visa applications
  • The current premium service which offers a three-to-five day visa service for a £100 fee will be expanded to cover 90 countries by January 2015 (It is currently available in 67 countries)

'Easier than ever'

Mrs May said that the changes would 'ensure it is easier than ever before to visit the UK and see first-hand everything this great country has to offer'.

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