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Simpler China visa system will benefit British business

The Home Office has announced a pilot scheme through which Chinese tourists can more easily apply both to visit the UK and also the Schengen area of mainland Europe.

London First believes this one-stop-shop solution for applying for a UK and a Schengen visa, at the same time and in the same place, will remove the main obstacle to welcoming a greater number of Chinese to our country.

“The Government’s trial of a simpler twin visa system will be particularly welcomed by tourism, retail, and hospitality sectors, and will translate into jobs and growth for the wider economy,” said Catherine Shrimpton, head of tourism policy at London First.

“Separate European and UK visa systems have forced Chinese tourists to jump through two distinct hoops, making most travellers choose between mainland Europe and the UK, rather than visiting both.

“Unsurprisingly, the Chinese often choose the European Schengen option that gives them access to 26 countries, rather than the single UK visa. This means we miss out on many Chinese tourists, who are, on average, the highest spenders in the world.”

London First is a founder member of the UK China Visa Alliance (UKCVA), which estimates that the UK loses up to £1.2 billion annually because we attract far fewer Chinese tourists than our major European neighbours.

The new shared visa service, being piloted with Belgium, was one of the key recommendations in UKCVA’s Building on Progress report, launched in June 2014 at an event with the Home Secretary.

UKCVA research provides clear evidence that it is the need to apply separately for two visas that is the biggest deterrent to Chinese people including the UK on their European trips.

Our other recommendation for streamlining the UK and European visa applications – via the sharing of application forms – has already been successfully implemented by UK Visas & Immigration service in China.

Contact: Catherine Shrimpton, cshrimpton@londonfirst.co.uk

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