Theresa May has revealed plans to overhaul the visa system for visitors to the UK. Mrs May wants to make it easier for business people and performing artists and certain others to access Britain.
She has outlined sweeping changes, set to be introduced in April, which will see the current 15 visa categories scrapped and in its place a new system from which visitors can choose from four visa types.
Simplifying the application process
Officials say that the reforms will 'streamline' the application process and reduce the level of bureaucracy that visitors face when applying for a visa.
Additional changes will permit individuals to use the same visit visa to holiday in the UK and enter on business to attend meetings, etc. Prior to the reforms, two visas would have been required – a tourist visa and a business visitor visa.
Complaints from London Business Leaders
Plans to reform stem from complaints put forward by business leaders in London who say that the current process is both 'cumbersome' and a 'hindrance' to their attempts to grow the economy.
Mrs May confirmed her intentions to change the system at a private meeting with leaders of the Confederation of British Industry, insisting that the reforms would yield significant improvements.
She said: "Fine-tuning the immigration system will help ensure we are demonstrating to the rest of the world that Britain remains open for business and that visitors are always welcome in the UK, whether they come for leisure or work.
In a global marketplace we must make sure we stay ahead of our competitors as we work to carry on attracting the business and leisure travellers who will help our economy grow further still."
The Updated System
The updated system will see the emergence of four visit visa categories, including:
- A standard visa for tourists
- Paid performing artists for those appearing in concerts, theatre or other performance arts
- A visit visa for those marrying or entering a civil partnership in Britain
- A transit visa for those passing through
The Home Office said it had compiled the reforms following consultation with over 100 organisations, consisting of business groups, tourism bodies and representatives from science and technology sectors.
Visit Visa Statistics
According to recent data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), around two million visitor visas were issued in 2014. This represents a one percent rise on 2013. Data also shows that approximately 100,000 were refused.