The United Kingdom plans to loosen up visa restrictions for Chinese visitors, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced Monday, in an effort to improve business ties with the increasingly powerful Asian nation.
Chinese nationals who intend to pay a visit to the UK will no longer need to submit a separate application if they work with a specially selected travel agent to secure entry under the new scheme, according to the BBC.
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Chinese visitors will now be able to apply for entry to the UK using the European Union's Schengen visa form, reports Bloomberg, streamlining a procedure that many Chinese nationals said was too complicated and discouraged them from visiting.
Business people will be allowed to apply for a new "super-priority" visa, said Agence France-Presse, which will be processed in less than 24 hours instead of the current week. A mobile visa service is also in the works.
Osborne, who is currently on a trade trip to China, discussed the reasoning behind the changes on Twitter:
Have announced new measures to simplify + speed up visa applications for visitors from #China. Good for tourism and British business
— George Osborne (@George_Osborne) October 13, 2013
"What I really want it to be about is strengthening the understanding between our two nations, deepening our friendship, working out where by working together we can improve the lives of all our citizens," Osborne added in a speech to Beijing university students, according to the BBC.
The hospitality the UK plans to extend to Chinese tourists differs markedly from the government's decision in June to require visitors from six Asian and African nations to take out $4,500 cash bonds upon entering the UK with tourist visas. The scheme was applied to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana, all identified as "high risk" countries for visa fraud by British authorities.