The UK Border Agency (UKBA) says that it hopes to increase the number of applications from Chinese nationals for tourist, student and business visas in 2012 after a rapid rise in visa applications in recent years. The UK's Immigration Minister Damian Green said 'we welcome the strong growth in Chinese visitors to the UK – it shows the attractiveness of the UK as a destination for both tourism and business.
Over recent years the UK immigration authorities have rolled out a series of measures to facilitate visa applications from China. The UK has more visa application centres in China than any other country; it has 12 centres in cities around China where Chinese citizens can apply for tourist visas as well as for Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 4 working and student visas.
Britain also offers a 'priority service' to enable some business visitors and tourists to receive visas within five days. The UKBA has accredited 72 agents around China to expand its visa service for tourist groups. During the summer 150 extra officers were drafted in to assist with the increase in applications for tourist visitors and three of the busiest centres, in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have been upgraded and equipped with VIP services for Premium Visa Service applicants.
In addition, the UK Border Agency has established a Chinese language website from which online applications can be made and where guidance notes can be found to assist with applications. The UK also provides a free phone service to assist Chinese people with applications.Over the last few years, the number of visitors has increased rapidly. There was a 164% increase in the number of tourists travelling to the UK on tourist visas between 2009 and 2011. In 2010, 68,000 visitor visas were issued. In 2011, the figure was close to 88,000. The UK immigration authorities expect that figure to rise again in 2012.
Mr Green said 'We've already introduced a number of service enhancements to ensure a good customer experience and are constantly seeking improvements so that our service continues to rival that offered by our European neighbours.' It is hoped that these improvements will support the £8m investment in tourism from China announced by the UK's Department of Media, Culture and Sport today.
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