Former Minister for Europe Dennis McShane says the complexity of the UK visa application dissuades tourism.
25 May 2012
MP slams UK visa application
Dennis McShane, the Labour MP for Rotherham and for Europe Minister, has accused the Government of dissuading foreign tourists to the UK due to an overly complex and invasive UK visa application which makes it easy for authorities to reject.
Mr McShane told the Commons that France now enjoys 50% more visitors than Britain while Switzerland's entrance into the Schengen area resulted in a disproportionate increase in tourists. Mr McShane said these increases were due in large part to visitors who would traditionally have come to Britain being dissuaded by the difficulty in obtaining a UK visa.
A report by the European Tour Operators Association (EOTA) published this month appeared to verify Mr McShane's accusations, claiming 25% of Indian tourists, and 30% of Chinese tourists, abandoned their visa applications due to complications in the application process and instead opted for other countries. EOTA's report said the UK visa application costs the British economy hundreds of millions of pounds a year in lost tourism revenue.
Mr McShane cited the visa's application form, at eight pages long, asks for information which makes it easy for officials to reject while the cost, £78, is too much to ask for visitors to comply with compared to the Schengen visa, which is just three pages long, costs €60 (£48) and allows holders to visit all 26 countries involved in the Schengen Agreement.
While UK immigration delays at Heathrow have remained the focus of issues within the British tourism industry of late, Mr McShane claims these are secondary to the real concern.
"Heathrow congestion does not help but clearly if Britain treats every would-be visitor as some kind of criminal unwanted immigrant the more and more people will go where they are made welcome," said Mr McShane in an exchange with Immigration
Minister Damian Green.
Mr McShane said Switzerland experienced a 49% growth in Indian visitors after entry into the Schengen agreement in 2008, compared to just a 3% increase in arrivals to the UK in the same period.
"Is the Minister concerned that France now attracts 50% more visitors from India than we do and that Switzerland, which has joined the Schengen, is also experiencing a disproportionate surge in business visitors and tourists as a result?
"Is it reasonable to impose a £78 charge? People have to travel hundreds of miles to visit Britain for any reason. We might be open for business, but we are jolly well closed to foreigners under this Government."
The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.