Chancellor George Osborne has urged more Chinese tourists to visit the UK as the Government simplifies the Visa system.
Osborne, who is currently leading a UK trade delegation in China, told Chinese students that changes to the system will “streamline and simplify” the visa application process for tens of thousands of Chinese visitors.
Osborne said: “We already have 130,000 Chinese students like you studying in Britain.
“I want more of you to come. And more Chinese visitors too.
“Let me make this clear to you and to the whole of China. There is no limit to the number of Chinese who can study in Britain. No limit to the number of Chinese tourists who can visit. No limit on the amount of business we can do together.”
He told Sky News: “The China of today has some of the world’s largest internet companies, does some of the most advanced high-tech engineering, develops some of the world’s leading medicines.
“This is about the future of China. China has changed dramatically even in the last few years. I think if we in Britain don’t understand that and appreciate that then we will miss out.
“I want us to be part of China’s success. I don’t see it as a threat to us. I see it as a great opportunity because there are many millions of people we can sell British goods and services to.”
Theresa May last month agreed to introduce a joint visa application for the UK and other European nations, which would mean that Chinese tourists could apply for a visa to the UK using the same application used by the Schengen group of European Union nations which include France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Chinese visitors are able to visit any member of the Schengen group on a single visa. But at the moment, Chinese visitors have to apply for a UK visa using a separate system.
In addition, the Government will launch a new 24-hour “super priority” visa service next summer. Officials are also looking at expanding the VIP mobile visa service, currently operating in Beijing and Shanghai, to the whole country. The process involves visa teams visiting applicants to collect their completed forms and biometric data. The process takes applicants less than five minutes.
The easier and faster Visa application process will please UK retailers who have complained that the existing regime is discouraging high-spending Chinese visitors from coming to Britain.
Last year 210,000 visas were issued to visiting Chinese nationals who went on to contribute around £300m to the British economy.