PM to roll out 24-hour visa scheme

Published: Thursday 13th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Super-priority 24-hour UK visas for business leaders, investors and wealthy tourists are to be rolled out to more countries, in the hope of attracting big-spending visitors to Britain, David Cameron has announced.

The announcement came as the Prime Minister travelled to Australia for the weekend’s annual summit of the G20 group in Brisbane, at which he is expected to meet chief executives from around the globe as well as world leaders including US President Barack Obama.

The biggest potential flashpoint of the two-day gathering of the international community’s leading powers is expected to be a meeting with Vladimir Putin, at which Mr Cameron has vowed to warn the Russian president not to plunge the world into a new Cold War.

The Prime Minister will also address Parliament in Canberra and join his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott in meeting business leaders to promote investment links between the two countries.

And he will have his first face-to-face talks with India’s new PM Narendra Modi since his election in May.

Downing Street said the meeting is intended to “strengthen the broad and deep relationship that Britain and India already enjoy, building on a partnership of equals based on mutual respect”.

On the agenda will be UK-Indian trade links, as well as Mr Modi’s vision for reform in the south Asian giant.

Super-priority visas have already been introduced in India and China, where demand has been averaging 50-60 applications per month and over 100 per month respectively.

All applicants must meet usual immigration requirements, but for a £600 fee can secure a decision within 24 hours, removing delays and red tape which put off some potential visitors.

The system will be rolled out by April 2015 to Turkey, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, the Philippines and visa processing centres in New York and Paris.

The new locations have been picked due to high demand from businesses and big-spending travellers, such as UAE tourists who spend an average of £2,486 each time they come to the UK.

Some 75,000 Thai tourists came to Britain in 2013, spending a total of £117 million, and the UK hopes to expand its share of the potential Thai outbound tourist market, which currently stands at just 1%.

Mr Cameron said: “As part of our long-term economic plan, we are determined to do everything we can to back business, support investment and create jobs.

“We are already taking action on that front including cutting corporation tax to the lowest rate in the G7, but we’ve got to keep listening to business about what more we can do to support them. And this new 24-hour service is another way we can help – it will persuade more business travellers, investors and tourists to visit Britain, to trade with Britain and to expand in Britain.

“This is good news for British business and tourism, helping us to build a more resilient economy and secure a brighter future for Britain.”

In his high-profile foreign affairs speech to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet on Monday, Mr Cameron said he would use the G20 to confront Mr Putin over Russia’s interference in Ukraine.

Speaking after former Soviet president – and architect of glasnost – Mikhail Gorbachev warned that the world is on the brink of a new Cold War, Mr Cameron told his audience in the City of London: “Russia’s actions pose a grave danger to the rest of Europe. Here in this building – with its history shaped by the Blitz – we shouldn’t need to be reminded of the consequences of turning a blind eye when big countries in Europe bully smaller countries.

“Mikhail Gorbachev has warned that we are on the brink of a new Cold War. That is not an outcome we believe to be inevitable – and neither is it one we seek. And I will make that clear to President Putin this weekend.”

Published: Thursday 13th November 2014 by The News Editor

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