During a visit to China on October 14 2013, Chancellor George Osborne indicated that the visa application process for Chinese visitors will be simplified. The Home Office has now announced the introduction of the following enhanced and streamlined services for processing UK visa applications in China:
- A 24-hour visa service will be introduced for regular and business visitor applicants by Summer 2014. The new super-priority visa service will be in addition to the existing priority (three to five-day) service, allowing visas to be processed in 24 hours.
- The VIP Mobile Visa Service will be extended across China. The service was launched in April 2013, covering Beijing and Shanghai, and allows senior executives to arrange for their application and biometric details to be taken by a Home Office team at their office, instead of a visa application centre.
- UK and Schengen visa application processes will be further aligned. A pilot scheme will be launched from November 2013 with selected travel agents for approved destination status tour groups that visit both Schengen countries and the United Kingdom. These agents will be able to make offline applications for tour groups using Schengen visa application forms with a short addendum form. This is intended to reduce duplication of the number of required forms and supporting documents for those travelling to the United Kingdom and within Europe. This change will extend the elements of UK and Schengen processes already aligned in China, including some application centres and the Passport Pass Back Service,(1) which allows applications to be considered simultaneously.
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On November 6 2013 the government announced the launch of the GREAT Club, an invitation-only service providing top business executives with bespoke support from UK Visas and Immigration. The club will start in 2014 as a 12-month pilot aimed at around 100 global business leaders who use the visa service and have strong links to the United Kingdom. They will be provided with an account manager to ensure that their visa and immigration service is swift and smooth. The account manager will also be able to arrange visa services tailored to each individual's needs at no extra cost during the pilot.
Over the next 12 months, additional improvements will include:
- expanding the priority (three to five-day) visa service from 67 countries to over 90 countries by Spring 2014;
- expanding the same-day visa service presently available in India and soon to be available in China to several other key locations by the end of 2014; and
- introducing the VIP Mobile Visa Service to India and piloting the Passport Pass Back Service in southern India, with a view to expanding it countrywide if successful.
For further information on this topic please contact Ilda De Sousa at Kingsley Napley by telephone (+44 20 7814 1200), fax (+44 20 7490 2288) or email ([email protected]). The Kingsley Napley website can be accessed at www.kingsleynapley.co.uk.
(1) This is a service presently available in several countries (eg, Russia), whereby the passport is returned to the applicant on the day of submission of the application, enabling the applicant to travel while his or her application is in progress. The passport is then re-submitted when the UK diplomatic post is ready to make a decision on the application.
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