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Building On Progress – streamlining the UK visa application process for Chinese visitors

This evening, the UK China Visa Alliance – of which London First is the major funder – has published a report into the UK’s visa system and its impact on Chinese tourism.

Read the full UKCVA report: ‘Building On Progress – The case and recommendations for streamlining the UK visa application process for Chinese visitors’

Read the report’s Executive Summary

The report, which is sponsored by London First, has revealed that 90% of Chinese tour groups to Europe each year are currently missing out the UK.  By comparison, over 80% said their trips focused on itineraries for France and Germany.

In the first research of its kind, 71% of tour operators surveyed said they would put the UK on European itineraries on the condition that the UK visa application process is simplified or indeed merged with the single Schengen visa, which allows travel to 26 other European countries.

The report has recommended three central potential improvement areas the UKCVA believes will make a significant impact on application numbers by streamlining the UK and Schengen visa application processes:

  • Continue and expand current initiatives to streamline the application processes for a UK and Schengen visa – including an extension of the pilot launched by the Chancellor in October 2013 permitting a select group of tour operators to use a Schengen form when applying for a UK visa


  •  Continue to streamline necessary supporting materials so that they closely match those required by Schengen countries


  • Launch the ‘UK and Schengen Visa’ package with VSF Global (the private sector contractor that issues visas for the UK and 10 Schengen countries) – allowing VSF to act as an agent for Schengen so visitors to a UK Visa Application Centre can submit their Schengen application at the same time

The UKCVA is pleased to announce that the Home Office has responded to the recommendations by announcing new initiative including a new streamlined visa application service, a 24-hour visa service and a British Irish visa scheme that will enable Chinese visitors to use an Irish visitor visa to travel to the UK, and vice versa.

Home Secretary Theresa May has said:

“The number of Chinese people coming to Britain to visit and do business is soaring.

 “They already enjoy a first-rate visa service and these changes will ensure it is easier than ever before to visit the UK and see first-hand everything this great country has to offer.

 “Having a visa system is vital to protecting Britain’s borders and we won’t relinquish control of them by joining Schengen.

 “But I want to make sure they are as efficient as possible in welcoming tourists and business people from around the world”

Chinese visitors are some of the highest spenders in the UK, spending three times more than the average overseas visitor, and UKCVA has estimated that if Britain performed as well as France, it would earn an additional £1.2 billion annually.

It is evident that the UK is missing a significant economic opportunity and London First and the UKCVA will continue working with the private sector and the government to ensure that UK visa policy welcomes these high spending tourists.


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