UK makes major change to Chinese visitor visa policy
Updated: 2015-10-21 15:33
By Chen Yingqun(chinadaily.com.cn)
Applicants for visas wait in line at the British visa center in Beijing. [WANG JING / CHINA DAILY]
UK visitor visas for Chinese tourists will be valid for two years - four times the usual six-month limit for a standard visitor visa - from January, British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday.
He also announced plans for a new 10-year multi-entry visa for Chinese tourists at no extra cost.
New arrangements being piloted will offer better value in both cost and convenience as the UK mobile fingerprinting service to capture the biometrics needed for visa applications is extended from nine Chinese cities to 50 - making it far easier to apply.
The government is also discussing with the Chinese government the potential to expand the existing UK network of 12 visa application centers - already more than any other EU country.
The changes amount to a much better deal than the standard Schengen visitor visa which is limited to a maximum 90 days, and puts the UK on a par with the 2014 US offer.
Chinese tourists currently contribute £500 million annually to the UK economy with record numbers visiting to make the most of the retail opportunities and visitor attractions on offer - up 35 percent between April and June this year compared to the same period in 2014, according to latest figures from VisitBritain.
Overall, visit visas issued to Chinese nationals have almost trebled over the past five years from 115,000 in 2009 to 336,000 in 2014, with spending increased by 326 percent. With every Chinese visitor spending on average £2,688 per visit, visitor visa extensions will enable them to maximize their spending power even further.
Overall inbound tourism, one of its fastest growing services, was worth more than £26 billion to the UK economy in 2013, so the benefits of increasing Chinese visitors can also be seen in job creation where, for example, every 22 additional Chinese visitors create an additional job in the sector.
"China is becoming one of our fastest-growing tourism markets, so making it easier and more convenient for Chinese visitors to come to the UK is extremely important. That is why the announcement I'm making today is great news for our tourism industry and great news for the British economy enabling us to maximize Chinese spending power even further," Cameron said.