Britain to ease China visa restrictions

Chinese tourists visit a popular waterfront promenade in Hong Kong on Oct 2, 2013. Britain is to make it easier for Chinese nationals to obtain visas in an effort to boost business between the two countries, finance minister George Osborne has announ
Chinese tourists visit a popular waterfront promenade in Hong Kong on Oct 2, 2013. Britain is to make it easier for Chinese nationals to obtain visas in an effort to boost business between the two countries, finance minister George Osborne has announced. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Britain is to make it easier for Chinese nationals to obtain visas in an effort to boost business between the two countries, finance minister George Osborne has announced.

Mr Osborne, who is in China leading a British trade delegation, promised the new measures would help the tens of thousands of Chinese visitors hoping to visit Britain.

"These changes will streamline and simplify the visa application process for Chinese visitors, while ensuring the system is strong and secure," he said on Monday in Beijing. "This is good news for British business and tourism."

Under the proposals, Chinese visitors to the European Union using selected travel agencies will no longer have to file a separate application to visit Britain.

Some 210,000 visas were issued to Chinese nationals in 2012, adding around 300 million pounds (S$597 million) to the British economy.

Mr Osborne is in China with London mayor Boris Johnson, who welcomed the plans.

"You need to get more visas for talented Chinese people to come to the UK," Mr Johnson told the BBC.

"When Chinese tourists come to London classically they spend very considerable sums of money - it's good news for the city.

"If it doesn't happen it's a missed opportunity and I don't want to see that business going to Paris," he added.