ETOA comments with a positive tone Britain’s turn to visa relaxation.
What we have been doing to our visitors has been extraordinarily damaging; and so the announcement from George Osborne is good news for potential visitors and so good news for Britain. Its significance is wider: by making Britain more attractive (or, more correctly, less unattractive) the Chancellor has strengthened Continental Europe as a destination too.The disparity with Britain’s European neighbours is striking. France welcomed 1.28 million Chinese visitors in 2012. Britain had 149,000 in the same period. The total loss to the UK economy of these missing people has been estimated at £1.5 billion.
Some searching questions have been asked about the system. Why was it that other countries in Europe were satisfied with a three page form, when the UK form was eight pages long? Were all those questions really necessary? The answer is that they were not.
We are told that Schengen forms will be now acceptable with the addition of a “relatively short addendum form” . It would be interesting to know if this will include such mandatory questions as: “Have you engaged in any other activities that might indicate that you may not be considered a person of good character?”
Much more needs to be done to rectify the debilitating competitive position that UK border security places on Britain as a destination. We still have wildly unreasonable visa regimes in force in a number of significant origin markets such as India and Russia. We have no offices capable of issuing visas in, for example, the Ukraine or Indonesia. In Europe, the UK remains the salient example of how not to handle incoming visitors. But this is undoubtedly a move in the right direction.