Britain to ease visa system to attract rich Chinese visitors, reveals George Osborne

Chancellor says there is 'no limit' to the number of Chinese tourists and students Britain can accommodate

George Osborne has bowed to pressure from businesses and agreed to bring in a joint visa application for the UK and other European countries to help lure wealthy Chinese visitors.

For the first time Chinese applicants will be able to submit just one form covering them for both Britain and the EU Schengen agreement countries through selected travel agents.

Speaking to students in Beijing today, the Chancellor said he wanted to “make it clear to the whole of China” that there is no limit to the number of Chinese tourists and students who can come to Britain.

He said his visit to the Far East is about “much more than a collection of business deals”.

“Many people think of China as a sweat shop on the Pearl River,” Mr Osborne told the BBC’s Today programme. “Yet it is at the forefront of medicine, computing and technology. It's a very rapidly changing country.”

China is one of the UK’s most lucrative markets for tourism and business, with more than 200,000 visas issued to Chinese nationals last year.

A new, 24-hour “super-priority” visa service will become available from next summer, while officials are also looking at expanding a VIP mobile visa service, currently operating in Beijing and Shanghai, to the whole country.

The Chancellor has embarked on a five-day trade mission across China, and yesterday used the opportunity to unveil an £800 million joint British-Chinese plan to turn Manchester into an “airport city”.

His arrival in Beijing marks the end of a freeze in diplomatic relations between the two countries after David Cameron angered Beijing by meeting the Dalai Lama in May 2012.

Beginning at Peking University today, Mr Osborne said “there is no country in the West that is more open to investment - especially investment from China - than the United Kingdom”.

He appeared alongside London Mayor Boris Johnson, leading his own trade mission to the Far Eastern giant, who insisted he was “absolutely thrilled” the Chancellor was there at the same time.

Mr Johnson said he would refer students to “English literature”, and said that Harry Potter’s relationship with Chinese overseas student Cho Chang in the novels of JK Rowling was the perfect example for “cultural interpenetration between Britain and China”.

Back in Britain business leaders welcomed Mr Osborne’s announcement. John Cridland, the director-general of leading business lobby group CBI, said: “These important changes will make the UK much more appealing to Chinese business and tourists alike and are likely to give a welcome boost to all sectors of UK business in the months ahead.”

Home Secretary Theresa May said: “We are continuing to attract the brightest and best to work and study in the UK, while preventing immigration abuse and bringing net migration down to the tens of thousands.

“Our Chinese visa system already provides an excellent service and figures demonstrate that Chinese tourists are increasingly choosing to visit the UK.

“We will continue to make further improvements wherever possible for visitors travelling independently or as part of a group.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links