UK makes it easier for Chinese to apply for visas after complaints over high-spending tourists

BEIJING, China – Britain announced Monday that it is making it easier for Chinese visitors to apply for visas following complaints from U.K. tourism businesses that the system doesn’t entice enough high-spending travellers from China.

Treasury chief George Osborne announced the changes to simplify and speed up applications as he led a British trade delegation to China.

Chinese visitors heading to Europe frequently choose not to stop in Britain because they have to apply for a separate visa from much of the rest of Europe, which comes under the passport-free Schengen zone.

The Treasury said the changes will reduce the need for Chinese visitors to the European Union to submit separate visa applications for Britain. Selected Chinese travel agents under a pilot scheme will be able to apply for British visas by submitting just the EU’s Schengen visa form.

It also said a new 24-hour fast visa service will be available starting next summer.

Officials also are looking at expanding a VIP mobile service available in Beijing and Shanghai to the rest of the country. That involves visa teams travelling to applicants to collect their forms and biometric data.

On Monday morning, George Osborne’s Twitter account, which is run by Osborne and the Conservative Party, said the new measures were “good for tourism and British business.” British airline, hotel and tourist attraction executives have lobbied for the changes.

Osborne arrived in Beijing on Sunday and also will visit southern economic powerhouses Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.