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June 20, 2015

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Easier access to Europe for Chinese

A PILOT scheme to streamline visa application processes for Chinese visitors to Britain, Belgium and the wider Schengen area was announced by the British and Belgium governments yesterday.

Under the new UK-Belgian Visitor Service, Chinese customers will be able to submit visa applications for both countries during a single visit to a UK visa application center.

The new scheme means visitors from China will be able to obtain a visa for both Britain and the Schengen area, of which Britain is not a part, without having to visit two different application centers.

Details of the scheme come just weeks after it was revealed that in 2014 the number of British visas issued in China had reached a record high of more than 400,000.

The newly appointed British Ambassador to China Barbara Woodward said at the time that China had replaced India to become the biggest country in terms of the annual quantity of British visa applications.

The new process will be introduced as a pilot scheme at Britain’s Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou visa application centers and will be available from July 1.

Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May said: “The number of Chinese visitors coming to the UK continues to soar. This scheme will create a one-stop shop for Chinese visitors to the UK and Europe, whether they are coming here for business or leisure.”

Under Schengen visa rules, successful Belgian visa applicants can also travel freely within any of the 25 other Schengen area countries.

The new service is the latest in a series of initiatives to make it easier for tourists from around the world to visit Britain as well as the Schengen area.

Chinese visa applicants using the British online system can already have their details uploaded automatically to the Schengen form to save time.

Now this new initiative will allow customers to apply and pay for Britain and Belgian visa applications online, using just one set of supporting documents, then book a single UK visa appointment to complete the process.


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