Personal Immigration

UK launches new two-year tourist visa for Chinese nationals

In January 2016, the UK officially launched a new visitor visa scheme. Chinese nationals are now able to apply for a two-year multi-entry visa. The previous standard tourist visa for Chinese nationals was limited to 6 months. The new scheme is therefore four times the normal 6-month limit for a standard general visitor visa.

The reasons behind this new launch?

According to latest figures from VisitBritain, Chinese tourists currently contribute £500 million annually to the UK economy with record numbers visiting the UK to make the most of all the retail opportunities and visitor attractions on offer – up 35% between April and June this year compared to the same period in 2014. Overall, visit visas to Chinese nationals have almost trebled over the last 5 years from 115,000 in 2009 to 336,000 in 2014, with spending increased by 326%. With every Chinese visitor spending on average £2,688 every time they visit the UK, the extension of the visitor visa will enable citizens of China to maximise their spending power even further.

Chinese visitors stay longer with an average holiday length of 10 nights compared to 6 across all inbound visits. British fashion brands are particularly popular with the Chinese, and visiting a luxury store is also reflected in high-spend across the Chinese market, with almost 40% of Chinese visitors heading for shopping at luxury stores.

The British government hopes that the extension of the visitor visa scheme will lead to more spending. Prime Minister David Cameron also announced plans to institute a 10-year multi-entry visa for Chinese tourists at no extra cost.

What are the significant changes?

The highlighted changes were agreed in principle during President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the UK in October 2015:

  • Extension of standard visitor visas from 6 months to 2-year multiple entry and plans to introduce a new 10-year multiple entry visit visa for the same visa fee;
  • Mobile fingerprinting service to be extended to an additional 50 cities to make it easier to apply for a visa;
  • Part of government’s ambition to strengthen UK-China relations for the benefit of the whole of Britain.

How much does it cost?

A standard UK visitor visa costs £85. Additionally, the newly launched 2-year multiple entry visitor visas costs the same as the standard UK visitor visa.

A note of caution

Whilst the new 2-year multiple entry visit visa will certainly be attractive to many Chinese citizens, it is important to remember that visa applicants will still need to satisfy the requirements of the Immigration Rules in order for their visas to be granted. This means that the Home Office will want to be satisfied, for example, that the applicant intends to return to China at the end of their stay, that they will not undertake any prohibited activities in the UK and that they will be maintained and accommodated adequately without recourse to public funds. Although multiple-entry visits may therefore now be permitted, visit visa applicants should expect the requirements of the Immigration Rules to be enforced as rigorously as they were before. If a visa refusal decision is to be avoided therefore, the importance of ensuring that any application for a visit visa is both professionally presented and technically correct remains.

Immigration Barristers & Lawyers in London

For advice and assistance with applying for a multi-entry UK visitor visa, contact our immigration barristers & lawyers in London on 0203 617 9173 or or via our online enquiry form.

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