During his recent trade visit to Beijing, George Osborne has announced plans to simplify visa applications for Chinese visitors to the UK.

In 2012, 210,000 visas were issued to visiting Chinese nationals who went on to contribute around £300m to the British economy. Currently, Chinese nationals wanting to visit the UK as either a tourist or a business visitor must apply for a visa.  This can at times be a time-consuming and lengthy process. 

The UK is not currently signed up to the Schengen visa scheme. A Schengen visa allows the visa-holder to travel to any of the 26 countries (mainly in the EU) currently signed up to the scheme using a single visa. The purpose of the visit must be leisure, tourism or business.  It is thought that the UK’s non-participation in this scheme discourages some individuals from visiting the UK.

Osborne’s proposals will mean that Chinese visitors will not be required to submit separate visa applications for the UK, with selected Chinese travel agents able to apply for UK visas by simply submitting the Schengen area visa form. Osborne also announced plans to introduce a 24 hour priority visa service later in 2014. There are plans underway to start a mobile visa service to the whole of China which involves visas teams visiting applicants to collect their completed forms and biometric data.

The announcement is likely to be welcomed by businesses in the UK who will see the proposed change as an opportunity to develop business opportunities with China