The UK Border Agency (UKBA) said the United Kingdom is ‘open for business’ and tourism and China is one of the UK’s priority markets.
According to travel agents, some Chinese tourists visiting Europe have been bypassing Britain, which is not part of the Schengen area visa agreement.
However, top London stores, such as Harrods, report strong sales figures to Chinese visitors on UK tourist visas and are actively seeking Mandarin speaking sales staff.
The UKBA reports evidence of ‘continual growth in visitor numbers from China’, with the vast majority of those who apply not only getting a visa, but speaking highly of the UK visa service.
Figures show that for 2010 to 2011 the UK saw 28 per cent growth in visit visas issued compared to France, which saw 19 per cent growth for the same period (Home Office statistics).
In 2011 the UKBA processed more than 283,000 visas from Chinese nationals worldwide (Home Office statistics).
These statistics show that visitors from China want to come to Britain and that the door is open for those legitimate visitors who wish to do so.
Key facts from UKBA
- 94 per cent of Chinese visitors who apply for a visa get one (Home Office statistics).
- 96 per cent of applicants surveyed who have applied for a visa said that they were satisfied with the service they received (UK Border Agency customer satisfaction surveys October – December 2012).
- 97 per cent of non-settlement visas from Chinese nationals are processed within 15 days (and 54 per cent within 5 days) (see China’s processing times).
- 99 per cent of business visit visas are decided within 15 days (75 per cent within 5 days) (see China’s processing times).
The UKBA say they are ‘committed to providing an ever improving service, listening and acting on feedback from our customers’.
Visa application forms and documents required for tourists have been shortened and simplified, and British Embassy ECO’s are now accepting photocopies of key documents.
The UKBA has set up a dedicated network of staff to support business visa applications to speed up the process.
Key facts from UKBA
- The average length of a visa application form is 6 pages (including the disclaimer).
- The average UK visa costs £81, which is multiple entry for 6 months to 5 years. The Schengen visa is only single entry and lasts for 3 months.
- A visa to travel to China costs a UK citizen around £126.
- The UKBA website has information and guidance translated into Chinese and applicants have access to a Chinese language phone and email service.
- Online application forms will also be translated in Chinese from later this year.
- There are around twice as many visa application centres in China than Schengen (European) countries.
- The UK application system allows applicants to fill in forms and book appointments online.
- For businesses the UKBA has set up a dedicated network of staff to support them with the visa application process.
- From spring this year the UKBA will offer a service to some businesses where officers will go to them to capture fingerprints of their employees travelling to the UK, to help speed up the system even further.
Figures released by UCAS last week show a 9.9 per cent increase in number of students applying to UK universities from China, the number one market for overseas students coming to the UK to study.
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