In 2013, France had 10 times as many tourists than the United Kingdom. That must have stung someone, because earlier in June the British government has expressed its plans to promote the United Kingdom as a travel destination. It hopes to attract even more visitors than last year. There are various visitor visas to apply for, from marriage to business purposes. On most of the visitor visas, you can stay in the UK for up to 6 months. If you are staying under 6 months, you will not need to take a tuberculosis test. Note that if you need to be in the UK for specific reasons, like studying or working, you will need to apply for another type of visa. Also, you will not be able to bring in family members or other dependants with you; they will have to apply separately. Visitor visa applications are generally considered soon and you will be informed about the decision within 3 weeks after finalizing your application. Extending your visitor visa is only possible from within the UK and it cannot exceed 6 months in total.
A visitor visa will cost you £83 per person. You will have to prove you have enough money to support yourself during your trip, since you will not be able to benefit from public funds. You will also be required to show your travel plans, but you should not book anything before you obtain your visa. Applying is easy, just go online and fill in the form. You will then need to have your fingerprints and photograph taken at one of the visa application centres to finalize your application.
Following the recent establishment of the UK-China friendship and the official visit of Premier Li Keqiang, the UK especially wants to attract and welcome more Chinese visitors. Research by the UK Chinese Visa Alliance showed that Chinese tour operators did not organize more trips to the UK, as it was too difficult to obtain visas. The Home Office has now made it its mission to “promote UK interests through a strong and effective relationship with China”. It has therefore made it easier for Chinese visitors and business visitors to apply by updating the Visa4UK website. It is now working swiftly on both computers and tablets. 96% of Chinese visit visas are approved and in most cases, the decision is made within 15 days. The priority visa service guarantees your visa is issued within 3 to 5 days. In August, a super priority service will be introduced, which can get you a visa issued in just 24 hours for £600. The UK is the first and only European country to do this.
VisitBritain has recently launched ‘The GREAT China Welcome Charter’, which should also show how welcome Chinese visitors are in the United Kingdom. The touristic sector has also expressed that it is ready to host more Chinese visitors and it is ready to cater to all their needs. A lot of British businesses are already providing information in Mandarin and making other adaptions to improve the British experience for tourists. Chinese visitors who come to the UK tend to stay longer than they do in other European countries, proving that the UK is an attractive travel destination. The fact that luxury goods are much cheaper in the UK than in China might have something to do with this.
The UK is gaining popularity over the Schengen countries, according to Theresa May. Measures are being taken to make visa applications more convenient, because the fact that tourists currently need a separate visa to visit the UK when they want to travel Europe seems to be stopping many from coming to the UK. By making it possible to apply for a UK and a Schengen visa in only one application, the Home Secretary is hoping to overcome this in the future, since joining the Schengen area does not seem to be an option for her. Border security remains a priority for the United Kingdom.
Starting from October, the joint British/Irish Visa Scheme will allow Chinese visitors to visit both the United Kingdom and Ireland on the same visa. This Scheme will soon also be introduced in India.
It is clear that amends to the visa application process are being made and the Home Office is trying to continue to improve in the future. Talks about agreements with other European countries are ongoing and should make travelling through Europe easier in the future.
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