UK visitor visas for Chinese tourists

The recent visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the UK has sparked a number of policy changes as the UK Government intends to make the country China’s “best partner in the west”. Almost a decade on since the last state visit by the then Chinese President Hu Jintao has meant that the UK Government has pulled out all the stops to ensure a relationship between the UK and China can be strengthened and developed further.

Prior to the visit, David Cameron’s spokesperson made the importance of the visit holds clear when he stated “nothing is off the table” referring to when the Chinese President and UK Prime Minister hold talks.

Unsurprisingly, one change which resulted from the talk is to UK Visitor Visa for Chinese visitors to the UK.

UK Visitor Visa Changes for Chinese Tourists

UK Visitor Visa changes for Chinese tourists are expected to be implemented in January 2016. The change will allow tourists from the People’s Republic of China to apply for a 2 year visit visa, which is 4 times the usual 6 month limit the UK allows for a standard visitor visa.

In President Xi Jinping’s recent visit, Prime Minister David Cameron also announced government intentions to implement plans for a new 10 year multi-entry UK Visitor Visa for Chinese tourists. This would be charged at the same figure as the current UK Visitor Visa available to Chinese nationals, currently priced at £85. By offering such a deal, the UK government intends to offer a better value for money UK Visitor visa option, as Chinese nationals will be allowed to leave and return without the need to make a new application each time.

In an additional attempt to increase the convenience of the UK Visitor Visa, the government will be increasing the number of UK mobile fingerprinting service needed to capture the UK Visitor Visa applicants’ biometrics from nine to 50 Chinese cities.

The UK government is also discussing with the Chinese Government the possibility to expand the current UK network of 12 Visa Application Centres; this figure is already higher than that of any other EU country.

Chinese nationals will be offered a much better deal under the new UK Visitor Visa route when compared to the Schengen visa, which only offers a maximum of 90 days stay. The recent push for changes for Chinese nationals will put the UK Visitor Visa on par with the US-China Reciprocal Agreement from 2014.

Why the Change?

The changes are an attempt to increase the UK’s attraction for retail opportunities and visitor attractions to Chinese nationals. Currently, Chinese tourists contribute approximately £500 million a year to the UK economy, which is the one of the largest contributions by one nation alone. Specifically, as regard the Chinese tourist contributions to UK retail and visitor attractions, April and June 2015 saw a 35% increase when compared to the same period in 2014.

The UK has seen the number of UK Visitor Visas issued to Chinese nationals treble over the last five years (from 115,000 in 2009 to 336,000 in 2014) and overall spending by the Chinese in the UK has seen an increase by 326%.

By offering an extend duration of stay to Chinese nationals the UK Government are hoping that the current average of £2,688 that is spent per visitor per visit to the UK will increase and lead to an even larger contribution to the UK economy.

Overall the UK’s inbound tourism sector is one of the fastest growing services and is expected to continue to grow over the next decade; a forecast by VisitBritain.org expects the sector to be worth over £257 billion by 2025.

Figures from within the tourism sector from 2014 showed an increase (5%) in the number of visitors and their value (3%) when compared to 2013. In total, 2014 saw the UK welcome a record number of overseas visitors (34.4 million) that were believed to have spent £21.8 billion.

The anticipated change to the UK Visitor Visa for Chinese nationals will no doubt add an economic benefit to the economy as more spending hopefully leads to more job creation. In fact, the Home Office estimates that every additional 22 Chinese visitors to the UK equates to the creation of at least one job within the tourism sector. The Government hopes that by offering an extended duration of time in the UK, Chinese nationals will increase their average spending and help drive up the economy.

Conclusion

The impending change has been largely welcomed by the UK’s luxury goods and hospitality industries as they anticipate an increase in demand from Chinese nationals. With Chinese nationals becoming one of the UK’s fastest-growing tourism markets and with a value of approximately £500 million per annum it is no surprise that David Cameron wishes to increase this figure and help the British economy.