Finally: Foreign secretary Philip Hammond confirms China and UK will offer each other multiple entry visas

 
Emma Haslett
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The UK's visa system has been criticised for being complicated and expensive (Source: Getty)

Foreign secretary Philip Hammond has confirmed that China and the UK will offer one another two-year multiple entry visas for the first time.

The news comes after years of cajoling from business organisations to allow Chinese tourists to visit the UK without going through the complicated process of applying for a visa each time.

"From next week, Chinese nationals will be able to apply for a two year multiple entry visa to the UK, for the same price as they can currently apply for a six month single visit visa," said Hammond.

"We will be extending our on-demand mobile biometric service to a total of 50 sites across China, making it easier and faster for Chinese people to apply for visas to visit the UK."

Meanwhile, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi reciprocated with a two-year multi-entry visa for British residents visiting China.

"This represents a major change in the UK visa regime that was agreed in principle during President Xi's State visit," said Hammond

"It is designed to make it easier for Chinese business people, for Chinese tourists to visit the UK and we hope that it will herald the beginning of a far higher level of interchange and exchange between our two peoples."

The UK received about 90,000 visits from Chinese tourists in 2015, up 28 per cent from 2014.

However, anecdotal evidence suggests Chinese tourists prefer to go to mainland Europe, where the Schengen visa-free zone means they can visit multiple countries on one visa. At the moment, a tourist visa to the UK costs £80, compared with £56 for the Schengen area.

The UK's complex visa application system has been fiercely criticised by UK businesses. In 2013, Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways parent company International Airlines Group, said there was a perception in China that "the UK doesn't want to see the Chinese tourists and Chinese business".

"We’ve got to put a bit of effort into changing that image," he said.

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