UK immigration minister says 'UK visa process is good and getting better

Mark Harper, the UK Immigration Minister, has said that it is 'a misconception' that Chinese visitors to the UK 'have a hard time getting a UK visa and it's time to stop knocking the system'.

Writing in UK travel magazine Travel Weekly, Mr Harper wrote 'I believe we are running a good visa service – and our customers disagree' though he conceded that 'we should do more'. He conceded that there had been 'reports' that the UK was not running a good visa service in China but said that they were false. 'The facts speak for themselves', he wrote 'almost 300,000 visas were issued in 2012 with the vast majority processed in 15 days and around half in just five days'.

He continued 'Our customers in China are happy, with 99% of those surveyed saying they were satisfied with the service and telling us that it compares well with their experiences with other visa services'.

However, Jason Yap, a travel agent who helps Chinese tourists and businesspeople to travel to the west disagrees. He says 'the reality is that the UK visa application process remains far more complicated than in neighbouring EU countries such as France'.

Chinese passport applicants find EU visa process easier and quicker

Mr Yap says that
  • Applicants for UK passports have to attend an embassy in person to get a visa so that their thump print can be taken
  • The application must be filled out in English. French visa forms come in Chinese
  • UK visas take, on average 15 days whereas French visas take ten.
  • UK visas are 50% more expensive than French visas and French visas allow their holders to visit the 25 other nations in the EU's borderless Schengen Area.
Mr Yap says that this explains why, in 2012, 1.15m Chinese people visited France whereas only 180,000 visited the UK.

Mr Yap says that the number of applicants for French visas has risen by 49% in the last year. He says that the UK is missing out on the opportunity to attract a great deal of tourist revenue.

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