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3 Jul, 2014

European countries fight for Chinese tourists

Beijing, (People’s Daily Online), July 02, 2014 – Many European countries have relaxed or simplified visa application procedures for China this year. This is mainly due to increasingly close political relations between China and the EU. Eager to put the financial crisis behind them, EU countries also hope that opening the door to more Chinese tourists will add a little growth impetus to their faltering economies.

Statistics show that in 2013 the number of Schengen visa applications reached 17.2 million, of which the number of applications from China represented nearly 1.5 million, ranking third just behind Russia and Ukraine.

Next year the EU plans to substantially reform the existing visa regime to facilitate Schengen visa applicants, including those from China.

The European Commission has proposed a package of reforms of the Schengen visa regime. For Chinese tourists, the biggest change is that from next year the Schengen visa procedure will also need to collect the record of fingerprints of the applicants, just as the UK visa system does now.

An official responsible for visa applications in the EU said that the EU will adopt a new Visa Information System (VIS). All the information including the applicant’s data, records, fingerprints and other biological information will be stored in the VIS.

This policy will be introduced to China from May 19 2015. The VIS system is designed to facilitate multiple-entry applicants. If the visa has a good record, just as in the case of a “credit rating” it will be easier for Chinese citizens to make multiple-entry applications. People who often travel in Europe can apply for three or five year long multiple-entry visas.

Europe needs “external forces” to reverse the economic downturn.

In addition to visa system reform, in order to attract more Chinese tourists European countries have also implemented a wide range of services and improvement measures.

“This year, many European countries have relaxed the visa process to China,” says Gan Ying, Visa director from Runpeng International Business Consulting Company.

The processing time has been substantially reduced and the submission time has been shifted from three months to six months in advance. “This will allow applicants to plan their trip earlier,” says Gan.

Mandatory travel medical insurance will be canceled for visa applications. In addition, the European Commission has proposed a new “tourist visa”. The visa holders will be able to stay in the Schengen countries for up to one year. The visa may also be extended for an additional year. This kind of visa will simplify matters for students, arts organizations, and researchers visiting Europe.

“As more and more Chinese people have higher disposable incomes, the EU has less fear of illegal immigrants from China,” says Zhou Hong, director of the Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). Currently, the Schengen visa refusal rate for Chinese applicants is 3.9%, lower than the 5% of applicants from the UK and the 6.2%. of applicants from India.

The driving effect of tourist visa relaxation has been almost immediate. According to Gan Ying, “After the implementation of visa approval in 48 hours in French Embassy, the number of daily applications in the visa Center in Beijing rose from 300 to 900.”

This article is edited and translated from 欧洲多国降低签证门槛 争抢中国游客,Source: Beijing News