05 March 2009

Taiwanese enjoy their first days of visa-free travel to UK

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A Taiwanese tour group was the first to take advantage of the new UK visa rules introduced by the Home Office this year for visitors to the UK.

According to Taiwan News, the 28-person tour group cruised through the UK Border Control without a hiccup on Tuesday, 3 March, the first day of visa-free travel for Taiwanese visitors.  Taiwanese nationals can now travel, conduct business, visit family and friends, and study for up to six months without a visa for UK.

Travellers on this new type of visa will have to bring with them proof that they are leaving the country before the six months has ended, and proof that they are studying, attending business meetings, or touring the UK.

Pan Cheng-yi, the group's leader, told the Central News Agency that the smooth entry of the tour group rested in the fact that all the necessary documents, including passports, round-trip flight tickets and lodging information, were organised before their departure from Taipei.

David Campbell, director of the British Trade and Cultural Office in Taiwan said the new UK visa ruling is the result of sound relations between the two countries who have a shared understanding that businesses and travellers would find the agreement mutually beneficial.

After the new visa-free rule is live, the British Trade and Cultural Office is expecting to see the numbers of UK visas sold drop from 28,000 per year to 6,000-8,000 UK visas.

In related news, one of the UK's biggest visitor market South Africa will now need a visa to visit UK.  Over 400,000 South Africans land in Britain every year, and under the new rules they will all have to apply for a UK visa, even if it is just to use the UK as a transit stopover.  In 2007, the numbers of South Africans visiting the UK comprised 168,000 tourists, 132,000 returning after absence abroad, 46,200 business travellers, 52,800 in transit, and 2,890 with work permits plus their 1,190 dependants.  The Border Agency refused over one thousand South Africans from entering the UK.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said the clamp-down on South African visas is proof of the government's new tough stance on UK immigration laws and its commitment to protecting its residents from those who try to take advantage of it.


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