UK to relax visa restrictions for Chinese nationals

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The UK will announce new measures to make it easier for Chinese nationals to get UK visas during a three day state visit to the UK by Chinese premier Li Keqiang. The UK's Home Secretary, Theresa May will announce the measures during the visit.

Last week the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, warned that Chinese investors were being deterred from investing in the UK because of difficulties in obtaining UK visas.

Over the last few years, the UK government has announced several changes to make it easier for Chinese nationals to get UK visas but Mr Liu said that these changes were 'far from enough'.

Liberalisation of restrictions

He said 'We would like to see liberalisation of restrictions on visas on Chinese business people and Chinese tourists. I think there are many opportunities and much potential for cooperation with business, and with tourists'.

He said that he was aware of difficulties in various visa categories. He said that Chinese businessmen had recently been refused visas to attend a business conference and that some Chinese businesses with operations in the UK had found it hard to get Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visas.

Mr Liu said that the businessmen had complained that this 'made their operations more difficult than they are in other European countries', according to UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

'Visa issues erode British strength'

He added 'So I think visa issues really erode British strength in terms of attracting more foreign businesses, attracting talented people, so I do wish more progress will be made on this issue'.

Mr Liu also said that the Chinese would like to see greater capacity at Heathrow Airport which would allow more flights to China.

Chinese nationals can visit most European Countries on one visa. Since 1985, foreign nationals wishing to visit any country in the Schengen Area can apply for a visa in one Schengen country and can then visit all other countries in the Area. 26 countries in the EU are now in the Schengen Area. Only Ireland, the UK, Romania and Bulgaria remain outside the Area.

Schengen visas

British tourism groups are lobbying the government to make it easier for Chinese nationals to get visas. They fear that Chinese nationals intending to come to Europe, whether for business or pleasure, may think that getting another visa just to visit the UK is not worth the effort when they can visit 26 countries with one Schengen visa.

Chinese officials also say that the UK visa application process is more difficult and time consuming than and application for a Schengen visa.

In October 2013, on a visit to China, the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced that Chinese nationals who book Schengen visas through certain approved Chinese travel agents would be able to visit the UK without applying for a separate UK visa.

'Political row' in UK cabinet

He said that this scheme would only apply to tourists to begin with. After the Chancellor had made his commitment, a political row was said to have broken out in the UK between the Home Office, which is responsible for the UK's visa regime and the Treasury, the Chancellor's department.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May was said to oppose the Chancellor's proposals. It was rumoured that she was attempting to block them.

Since the Chancellor made his announcement in Beijing, there have been no public statements on the government's progress in implementing his proposals. It is not even clear that any Chinese travel agents have applied for licences to allow their clients to receive a Schengen and UK visa at the same time.

UK visa regime damaging UK trade with China

Sanwar Ali of said 'It is clear from what the Chinese Ambassador has said that the UK visa regime is damaging UK trade with China.

'It is much more convenient for Chinese nationals to visit most of the rest of Europe than the UK. They can apply for one visa which will give them access to the 26 countries in the Schengen Area including France, Germany, Spain and Italy. If they want to come to the UK as well, they need another visa just to visit the UK

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