Strict rules and delays for Chinese citizens applying for UK tourists visas and business visitor visas have been openly slammed by the Chinese government who are demanding special treatment.
Despite Home Office efforts to fast track the UK visa system, Britain is outside the EU WIDE Schengen visa area. Having to apply and pay for a separate visitor visor is discouraging more wealthy Chinese tourists and investors from coming to the UK when travelling to Europe.
The reforms follow a number of campaigns, including one from the Telegraph’s for easier visa rules for Chinese visitors to boost UK economic growth.
Leading businesses, known as the UK China Visa Alliance, which includes Travelodge, Harrods and International Airlines Group, and which owns British Airways, has warned that Chinese tourists, who spend an average of £1,600 per visit, are shunning the UK in favour of other countries in Europe.
Having said that, top London stores, like Harrods and Selfridges, employ hundreds of Chinese-speaking sales assistants to sell high end luxury goods to tourists from China.
The UK also hosts hundreds of thousands of Chinese students on Tier 4 student visas.
There are also schemes for longer term Investor Visas for a short route to British Citizenship (cash for citizenship) and Tier 1 Entrepreneur visas to encourage investment into Britain.
However, the British Chambers of Commerce, the British Hospitality Association and the Institute of Directors all want more improvements to the UK visa system to help British businesses.
Last year, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that visa applications for some Chinese visitors entering the UK would be simplified.
Chinese tourists visiting the EU no longer need to submit separate UK tourist visa applications if they book with selected travel agents.
Home Office Ministers have also introduced a same day visa service for UK business visa visitors.
The Telegraph reports that further reforms will be announced when China’s premier, Li Keqiang, visits Britain for talks with the Prime Minister and tea with the Queen this week.
The Home Office are expected to drop the requirement for separate visa forms for all Chinese visitors who have applied under a European Union visa application, a major change from previously held views that the UK should have full control of its borders.
On Friday the Chinese Ambassador, Liu Xiaoming, said that progress on making it easier for Chinese people to visit Britain has been “far from enough”.
“We would like to see liberalisation of restrictions on visas on Chinese business people and Chinese tourists,” he said.
“I think there is many opportunities and much potential for cooperation with business, and with tourists. They’re not only coming here to enjoy sight-seeing, many of them are very good shoppers. I can see them anywhere and everywhere – Harrods, Oxford Street, you name it.”
Liu said that prominent Chinese businessmen are still being rejected when they apply for visas to come to the UK.
He said that many were rejected and unable to attend a recent business leaders’ summit but that he did not know the “real reason” their visa applications were turned down.
He added: “And also I receive complaints from businesses based here. They have difficulties to rotate their senior executives because of visa restrictions. That made their operations more difficult than they are in other European countries.
“So I think visa issues really erode British strength in terms of attracting more foreign businesses, attracting talented people. So I do wish more progress will be made on this issue.”
The relaxation of visa rules for the growing Chinese tourist market and rich investors will have positive benefits for the UK.
But let’s not forget that there are a large number of Chinese UK visa overstayers who are working without work permits in Britain.
When Chinese illegal immigrants are caught during Home Office raids they normally claim to have "lost their passport" - a well known ploy to avoid immediate deportation from the UK.
The Chinese government will not take their citizens back without a passport and need 12 months to issue a replacement! This means the Home Office cannot afford to detain the overstayer for a year and are forced to release illegal immigrants into the community to work illegally, or in some cases fund lengthy appeals to prevent deportation.
If you need advice on any immigration matter, including overstaying your visa, EU or UK immigration law, or want to appeal against a refusal, call Cynthia Barker on 07850 307687 or 0208 731 5972 or email her your details to firstname.lastname@example.org. Cynthia Barker is a qualified OISC Registered Immigration Adviser, with 15 years experience in immigration matters, with a team of Level 3 Immigration Law Practitioners, Concept Care Solutions, Middlesex House, 29-45 High Street, Edgware, HA8 7UU.