UK aims to streamline visa application process

By Duan Wuning Source:Global Times Published: 2013-3-10 23:53:01

The UK will launch a service at the end of March that allows Chinese visa applicants to hold on to their passports while their applications are processed, a United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) official announced at a press briefing in Shanghai Friday.

The visa service, which is one of several that will take effect this year, aims to streamline the application process for the 350,000 applications the UKBA estimates it will process in China this year.

The passport passback service will allow applicants to travel while they wait for their UK visa applications to be processed. It will cost 520 yuan ($84) in addition to the standard visa processing fees.

Applicants will also be able to pay for their applications online later this year, said Matt Heath, the UKBA's regional manager in charge of visa application services in China.

Applicants who have been granted a Schengen visa, the special permit that allows visitors to travel freely inside a block of 26 countries in Europe, can now qualify for a priority service that allows them to have their applications processed in five days.

In the past, the priority service was only available to applicants who had obtained visas from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US or the UK. It also costs 520 yuan extra.

Last year, the UKBA issued 286,000 visas to people in China, 75 percent more than in 2009, Heath said. About 25 percent of all visa applications in China are processed in Shanghai.

To handle the increase, the agency will add 190 visa officers to its Beijing and Shanghai offices during the 2013 peak season.

According to a 2012 International Passenger Survey, Chinese visitors to the UK increased by 24 percent over 2011.

In 2012, the agency granted 96 percent of the visa applications it received.

British tourism authorities and companies are also doing their part to attract more visitors.

The Britain tourism agency, VisitBritain, has launched a campaign called "The Big British Invite" to promote the country's cultural and tourism attractions.

British Airways, one of the campaign's corporate partners, plans to increase the number of flights on its Shanghai-London route later this month from six flights a week to at least one flight each day.

In September, the airline will also launch a Chengdu-London route to capitalize on the booming market in western China.


Posted in: Society, Metro Shanghai

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