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Streamlined visa service to be piloted for Chinese visitors to Britain, Belgium

(Xinhua)    09:52, June 20, 2015

LONDON, June 19-- A new pilot scheme to streamline visa application processes for Chinese visitors to Britain, Belgium and the wider Schengen area was announced Friday by the British and Belgium governments.

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 (VAC).

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 new scheme comes 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 Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai visa application centers and will be available from July 1.

Britain's interior minister, Home Secretary Theresa May said Friday: "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," said May.

"We will continue to make sure our visa services are world-class to ensure that our borders are protected and that Britain remains open for business," added the home secretary.

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.

The launch of the UK-Belgian Visitor Service has been welcomed by business groups.

Andrew Murphy, Chairman of UK China Visa Alliance, said: "We warmly welcome the government's announcement. The UK needs to present, as much as possible, a one-stop shop for Chinese visitors who want both a Schengen and UK visa. This pilot, combined with the shared application form, goes a long way towards delivering this."

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Wang Ao,Bianji)

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