Duncan Lewis


Asylum, Detention/ Fast Track

Managed Migration, Public Law

Chinese visitors are being put off because of stricter and expensive visa system says Culture Secretary

Date: (16 August 2012)    |    

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A leaked letter from the private secretary of Mrs Theresa May has shown that the Home Secretary was blocking plans of her cabinet colleagues, who were to make it easier for Chinese tourists to get visas, as she was worried that it would lead to a rise in organised crime
Mrs May had warned Downing Street that relaxing checks on Chinese visitors was fraught with threat to national security which would allow and bring Chinese criminals and asylum seekers to Britain.
She had intervened after her senior cabinet ministers led by Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary had raised concerns that tourists were being put off coming to Britain due to a difficult and expensive visa system.
But the Home Office insisted that the visa process was insignificant compared to the price and availability of hotels and says “the cost of the visa was not a barrier.
After complaints from the Chinese businesses Mr Hunt had called to simplify the regime which was understood to have been supported by George Osborne, the Chancellor and Vince Cable, the Business Secretary.
But the issue has seem to have gone to the highest level of Government with the Home Secretary forced to answer questions from the Prime Minster about how to increase Chinese visits according to the leaked letter.
It also reveals that she has rejected Mr Hunt’s proposals to let Chinese visitors in tour groups get European and British visas as the same time. She claimed that Europe’s system checks were not on par with the British visa controls which were safeguarding public interest.
The European visa system, known as Schengen, allows tourists to enter 25 countries on one visa was found to be less cumbersome and cheaper compared to the British visa system according to an analysis by the Daily Telegraph last year.
The letter also points out about 400 Chinese criminals who were already awaiting deportation and 1,000 asylum applications from Chinese citizens last year.The letter had said that the proposal was not acceptable to the Home Secretary for national security reasons.
It was also said that the country faced significant challenges with Foreign National Offenders and organised crime including drugs, money laundering, fraud, criminal finances, intellectual property, immigration and cyber crime.
Her tough line on immigration has opened up a rift with Mr Hunt, who this week promised to improve visa application system to help triple the number of Chinese tourists by 2015.
A report from UK Trade and Industry had suggested the Home Office’s immigration policy was harming Britain’s interests to come out of recession by attracting more foreign investors.