HSBC warns visa regulations are hitting UK firms

Tim Wallace
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BRITISH businesses are being put at a disadvantage relative to European and US rivals because it takes too long to get a visiting visa, HSBC warns in a report on exporting today.

It can take weeks for a visitor to get a short-term visa, delaying business trips and hurting small firms’ efforts to export more, the bank said.

The plea for a simpler system is part of a manifesto of eight policies the bank believes would help boost exports and growth.

“For emerging markets like Indonesia, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, it can take 15 days to turn around a business visa application, and that hurts perceptions of doing business with Britain,” HSBC’s UK chief Antonio Simoes told City A.M.

“The government should streamline the visa process – we want customers to say Britain is the easiest place to host business meetings.”

The bank also wants the government to consolidate the various support services on offer for exporters.

Small firms can miss out because they are unaware of the range of schemes in place, HSBC said, while more coordination may also cut costs.

HSBC also suggests the government improve school and adult education with a focus on Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese as key languages. And it urged the UK to set up more export centres overseas to help small firms enter markets.

“We’re establishing British Business Centres in twenty key markets across the world and working in partnership with the British Chambers of Commerce to link them to business networks in the UK so that companies can quickly tap into the advice and support they need to export,” said UK Trade and Industry’s chief Nick Baird, backing the proposals.