Visa process for Chinese traveling through Europe streamlined
Updated: 2015-06-19 09:38
By Chen Yingqun(chinadaily.com.cn)
Liege Airport terminal will receive the first group of Chinese tourists traveling to Europe on regular chartered flights at the Belgium airport. Gao Shuang / China Daily
The UK and Belgian governments announced on June 19 a new pilot scheme to further streamline visa application processes for Chinese visitors to the UK, Belgium and the wider Schengen area.
Under the new UK-Belgian Visitor Service, Chinese customers will be able to submit visa applications for both countries during a single visit to a UK visa application center (VAC).
The new scheme means visitors from China will be able to obtain a visa for both the UK and the Schengen area - which the UK is not part of - without having to visit two different application centers.
The new process will be introduced as a pilot scheme at the UK's Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai visa application centers and will be available from July 1.
"This scheme will create a one-stop shop for Chinese visitors to the UK and Europe, whether they are coming here for business or leisure," says UK Home Secretary Theresa May.
"We will continue to make sure our visa services are world-class to ensure that our borders are protected and that Britain remains open for business."
Under Schengen visa rules, successful Belgian visa applicants can also travel freely within any of the 25 other Schengen Area countries.
The new service is the latest in a series of initiatives to make it easier for tourists from around the world to visit the UK as well as the Schengen Area. Chinese visa applicants using the UK online system can already have their details uploaded automatically to the Schengen form to save time.
Now this new initiative will allow customers to apply and pay for UK and Belgian visa applications online – using just one set of supporting documents – then book a single UK visa appointment to complete the process.
The launch of the UK-Belgian Visitor Service has been welcomed by business groups.
"We warmly welcome the Government's announcement," says Andrew Murphy, Chairman of UK-China Visa Alliance. "The UK needs to present, as much as possible, a one-stop shop for Chinese visitors who want both a Schengen and UK visa. This pilot, combined with the shared application form, goes a long way towards delivering this."
Travis Qian, VisitBritain's China and Hong Kong Manager said: "In an increasingly competitive tourism world, this change will enhance Britain's position and help us retain our current record levels of international tourists, but importantly, enable us to attract new ones."