The UK’s 24-hour visa service for wealthy visitors is to be expanded in an effort to attract more big spenders from overseas.
The so-called “super-priority visa service” will be extended to seven more countries including Turkey, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, the Philippines and visa processing centres in New York and Paris.
Prime minister David Cameron (pictured) is to announce the plan on arrival in Australia ahead of a G20 summit in Brisbane, as he tries to allay concerns about Britain’s time-consuming and bureaucratic immigration system, the Financial Times reported.
The service, which costs £600 per application on top of the standard visa fee, is available in China and India and ensures a decision on a visa application within 24 hours.
More than 100 priority applications a month are received from China and about 60 from India.
The 24-hour service will be expanded by April 2015 to the additional cities that have been picked owing to high demand from businesses and high-value travellers.
The scheme is intended to address concerns about “lengthy bureaucratic hurdles” that many UK companies and retailers fear are deterring business travellers, investors and rich tourists.
Other countries offer a smoother process and the UK faces fierce competition from Europe’s border-free Schengen zone, which allows movement around the capitals of Paris, Milan and Madrid with a single visa.
The Home Office announced earlier this year that Chinese visitors would be able to submit their Schengen and UK visa applications from the same website, but retailers said the move did not go far enough in alleviating the hurdles faced by potential shoppers.
Britain is currently the second most visited destination for UAE tourists, who generate a high average spend of £2,486 per visit. Thai travellers are some of the highest spenders with 75,000 tourists visiting Britain in 2013 and spending a total of £117 million – but this represents only 1% of the potential outbound Thai tourism market.
The Home Office has already expanded its three to five day “priority visa” services to more than 100 countries and opened visa application centres in more locations across the world.
Cameron said the coalition was determined to do “everything we can to back business, support investment and create jobs,” according to the` FT.
“We are already taking action on that front including cutting corporation tax to the lowest rate in the G7 but we’ve got to keep listening to business about what more we can do to support them,” he said.
“And this new 24-hour service is another way we can help – it will persuade more business travellers, investors and tourists to visit Britain, to trade with Britain and to expand in Britain.”
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Cameron to confirm ‘super-priority visa service’ extension
Posted on November 15, 2014