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Britain announces visa reform package in China

LONDON, July 28 (Xinhua) - The British Home Office on Monday announced a variety of improvements to the visa system in China, including a 24-hour visa service, the expansion of mobile biometrics, and a new service enabling customers to apply for the British and Schengen visa at the same time.

The mobile biometric service, which allows customers to give their fingerprints and details to visa staff in offices, will be available at all 12 of the regions served by Britain's visa application centers in China.

Meanwhile, a 24-hour super priority visa would be provided to customers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The 24-hour service, only available for British visas, will be open to customers applying for the majority of visit visas and work visas.

Other recent improvements include a passport pass-back service allowing customers to apply for the British and Schengen visa at the same time, the extension of three to five-day priority service, an upgrade of the 12 visa application centers and availability of "out-of-working-hours" appointments.

Britain will launch a new online application form with fewer questions, translated guidance and giving the option of pre-populating a Schengen form, according to the Home Office.

Premium service lounges will be offered in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou visa application centers, aiming to reduce waiting times for applicants and provide personalized assistance at every stage.

A dedicated team will be based in the British Embassy in Beijing which supports business, tourism and education sectors with their visa needs.

As part of the measures to cut bureaucracy, documentary requirements will be reduced for the Chinese government-endorsed Approved Destination Scheme (ADS) for Chinese tour groups and repeat travelers.

"China is the UK's largest visa market and the number of business travelers and tourists we welcome continues to grow -- demand for visitor visas increased by 40 percent in the last year alone," said James Brokenshire, British Minister for Immigration and Security at the Home Office.

"We want to make sure that we offer our Chinese customers a world-class service and we will continue to make improvements so that our visa system is as efficient as possible, while at the same time protecting British borders," he added.

All Chinese visitors will be able to use a single form to process applications for both British and Schengen visas, which are valid in 26 countries in total.

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