UK visa progress for Chinese tourists

Retail and tourism bosses have long since complained about the lengthy process Chinese tourists have to go through to obtain a UK visa while the Schengen Visa - which allows holders to visit 26 European countries - is a much more straightforward application process.

Critics claim the onerous visa application process can be blamed for the UK's poor performance with Chinese tourists when compared to France; Paris currently welcomes as many as nine times as many Chinese tourists a year than London and costs the British economy billions in revenue and jobs.

"Concerns have been growing that the UK could lose out to other countries if the Government does not make it easier for Chinese tourists to visit the country," said head Alison Couper.

Business groups have been lobbying the Government to simply join the Schengen Visa program and abandon the need for individual UK visas altogether, a move Mr Harper has firmly rejected.

"There's no point people lobbying on it," said the minister. "People looking for us to that are simply wasting their time."

However, it would appear industry pressure is starting to pay off with Mr Harper saying he has tasked his department with creating a process which would allow Chinese tourists to apply for a UK visa at the same time as a Schengen Visa in a single application.

"The aim would be getting the information and biometric details that we and the Schengen countries require to two sets of governments in a way that gives travellers a much easier experience," he explained.

"To the traveller it would look like a one-stop shop."

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.