The UK visitor visa system will be streamlined to attract more business and leisure visitors. The new rules, which will reduce the number of visitor visa categories from 15 to four, will come into effect in April 2015.
The proposed new visa types are:
– visitor (standard)
– visitor (to hold marriage or civil partnership)
– visitor undertaking permitted paid engagements and
– visitor transiting the UK
The new visas will be more flexible, allowing visitors to carry out a greater range of activities under one visa instead of having to apply for separate ones e.g. to take a holiday along with a business meeting. To make it easier for visitors to understand immigration the rules and guidance will be shortened and written in plain English.
The Home Office said it had drawn up the reforms after consulting with more than 100 organisations, including business groups, tourism bodies and representatives from the worlds of science and technology. Outlining the changes at a Confederation of British Industry meeting, Home Secretary Theresa May said “These further reforms to the immigration system are part of our work to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Britain remains open for business and that visitors are always welcome in the UK, whether they come for leisure or work.”
The business community lobbied the government for a number of years to simplify the visa application process, especially for emerging markets like China, India and Latin America, which benefit Britain through mutual trade and inward investment.
Welcoming the news, Mark Boleat, Policy Chairman, City of London Corporation, said “The new measures demonstrate that the government is listening to the concerns voiced by firms across a range of different industries, and match the aspiration of “open for business” with action. London cannot afford to fall behind other global financial hubs such as Singapore and New York, which have continued to show foresight by simplifying their visa processes. That is why our visa regime needs to react quickly to the realities of a fast changing global economic landscape.”