In the continuing drive to court Chinese business and tourism the UK and Belgian Governments have announced a new pilot scheme to better facilitate the visa application processes for Chinese visitors to their respective shores.
Whilst this may on first blush appear to be a somewhat “random” alliance, visa entry into Belgium then permits further travel into the “Schengen Area”, which is essentially the 25 countries within the European Economic Area excluding the UK and Eire.
According to the Home Secretary, Theresa May:
“This scheme will create a one-stop shop for Chinese visitors to the UK and Europe, whether they are coming here for business or leisure”.
Under the new UK-Belgian Visitor Service, from 1 July 2015 Chinese customers will be able to submit visa applications for both countries during a single visit to UK visa application centres in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.
The Government has proudly announced that:
“The new service is the latest in a series of initiatives to make it easier for tourists from around the world to visit the UK as well as the Schengen Area.”
This is a further example of the UK’s charm offensive on the Chinese market and has been universally welcomed by business groups.
Andrew Murphy, Chairman of UK China Visa Alliance, said:
“We warmly welcome the Government’s announcement. The UK needs to present, as much as possible, a one-stop shop for Chinese visitors who want both a Schengen and UK visa. This pilot, combined with the shared application form, goes a long way towards delivering this.”
Whilst this initiative to promote business and tourism is to be applauded, it remains to be seen what the Sino response will be to the outcome of the Government’s present review in respect of reducing net migration into the UK to “tens of thousands”, currently the subject of a call for evidence from the Migration Advisory Committee.
The outcome of this review will in all likelihood have a directly adverse effect on Chinese nationals wishing to come to live and work in the UK under the Tier 1 and Tier 2 visa entry routes, and it will be interesting to see if any further “accommodations” will then be proposed in that regard?
Other blogs of interest: