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UK aims to ease visa process for Asian visitors

May 15, 2014

Published on May 15, 2014

Country piloting several schemes, including aligning UK and Schengen application processes

The UK is developing a number of schemes aimed at easing the visa application process for Asian visitors.

Speaking to Travel Daily at the Destination Britain event in Kuala Lumpur this week, Simon Peachy, region director of Asia Pacific for UK Visas & Immigration, said that pilot schemes are being trialled in China, and could soon be rolled out to a number of Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.

“Our focus has been on China initially and we think that’s starting to pay dividends. We saw 31% growth in overall visa demand from China to the UK last year, and 39% in visit visas,” said Peachy.

“We’ve made a number of enhancements to the services we offer. We’ve vastly expanded the scope of our priority visa service, whereby for a small additional fee you’re guaranteed a 3-5 day service, and for premium customers in China we now offer a mobile service where a team goes out to visit groups and takes applications at their home or office. We’ve [also] opened priority appointments in the evenings and weekends.”

“These are just some of the things we’re doing, and it’s a work in progress. But what we’re getting from speaking to buyers and suppliers is invaluable feedback about where we can go next.” Peachy also revealed that one of the major initiatives being rolled out is aligning the UK visa process with Schengen applications.

“We now offer a ‘pass back’ service (in China) where you can lodge your application and take your passport away, allowing people to apply for two visas in parallel. We’re talking to Schengen countries back in Brussels about aligning the process even further, so you can visit one application centre and make two applications at the same time.”
And while Peachy admitted there were potential stumbling blocks in terms of aligning UK and Schengen visa processes, including “legal and data protection issues [and] logistical considerations”, he said UK Visas & Immigration is “working through the politicals and practicalities”.
In terms of roll-out, Peachy said he is eying Southeast Asian markets next.

“For accepting the Schengen application form, I’m looking at Indonesia next. We’re seeing a rate of growth there that I would like to support. Soon after that we’d want to look at Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.”

Peachy will be traveling to Indonesia next week to meet with trade partners there, and by spreading the UK’s message across the region, he said he hopes to “bust some of the myths about the UK visa service.”

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