Thursday, 12 February 2015

Sweeping Changes To UK Visa System!

The VISA system for visitors to Britain will be overhauled by Home Secretary Theresa May in an effort to make it easier for business people and performing artists to enter the country.

Under the changes — to be introduced in April — the existing range of 15 different visa categories will be scrapped and replaced by a system in which visitors will be given one of four types of visa.

Ministers say the reforms — which will also apply to tourists and those travelling to Britain to marry — will create a more “streamlined” application process and reduce the risk of visitors getting bogged down in bureaucracy.

Other changes will allow individuals to use the same visa to holiday in Britain at the same time as attending business meetings. Two separate visas would have been needed for this in the past. Other visitors will also be allowed to carry out a greater range of activities once in Britain using the same visa.

The reforms follow persistent complaints from business leaders in London and elsewhere that the exisiting visa process is too cumbersome and a hindrance in their efforts to expand the economy. Leaders in the capital’s arts world have also complained about the difficulty in bringing talented performers into the country.

Both groups will want to scrutinise the precise details of how the system will work in order to ensure it will address concerns. But Mrs May, who outlined the plans to leaders of the Confederation of British Industry in a private meeting, today insisted that the changes would bring major improvements.

“Fine-tuning the immigration system will help ensure we are demonstrating 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,” she said.

“In a global marketplace we must make sure we stay ahead of our competitors as we work to carry on attracting the business and leisure travellers who will help our economy grow further still.”

Under the updated system, the four categories will include a standard visa covering tourists and another visa for those waiting to undertake paid engagements such as appearing in concerts, theatre or other performance arts.

A third type of visa will cover those visiting Britain for a marriage or civil partnership. The final category will be a transit visa for those passing through the country.

The Home Office said it had drawn up the reforms after consulting with more than 100 organisations, ranging from business groups and tourism bodies to representatives from the worlds of science and technology.

The most recent official statistics show that just under two million visitor visas were issued last year. That is a 1 per cent rise on 2013. Around 100,000 applications were refused.

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