Minister for Immigration writes for Nee Hao: Building a better immigration system

The Minister for Immigration Mark Harper writes for Nee Hao Magazine about the immigration reforms and the changes the government have made to the visa service. This is to ensure the UK will continue to attract visitors, students and talented workers from China.


The Minister for Immigration writes for Nee Hao Magazine 

We are building a better immigration system which works in the national interest – a system that is supporting the UK economy by welcoming the brightest and the best and protecting our public services by keeping out those intending to exploit the system.

While our tough new rules mean that net migration is at its lowest level for a decade our reforms are supporting growth, ensuring Britain remains a popular tourist destination, a preeminent business hub and an attractive option for talented individuals from across the world.

Our Chinese visa system continues to provide an excellent service and we have seen continual growth in visitor numbers from China – 41 per cent more Chinese people visited the UK between June 2012 and May 2013 than a year earlier.  The vast majority of those who apply for a visa get one and speak highly of the service they receive. In 2012-13, we issued 289,000 visas globally to Chinese nationals, nearly a third more than in 2010-11.

We’ve made considerable improvements to ensure we continue to provide a world-class service.


We continue to have a great offer for international students. We’ve made improvements to the online application process and universities have been given greater flexibility in how they test language skills. University students can also work part-time during their studies.

Following their studies all talented graduates can stay on in the UK, with no limit on numbers, providing they have a graduate job with a salary of at least £20,300. Graduates can also stay and set up their own British business under the Graduate Entrepreneur route and post-graduates can stay for a further 12 months, following completion of their PhDs, to find skilled work or to set up as an entrepreneur.


We have shortened the application forms for tourists travelling in groups, simplified the documentation required, introduced translated guidance and started accepting photocopies of key documents. Tourists who have previously travelled within Europe are now eligible for our priority five day visa service and customers in Beijing and Shanghai can also keep their passport while their visa is being processed, allowing them to travel or apply for another visa at the same time.

Business visitors

We’ve set up a dedicated network of staff to support businesses with the visa application process and introduced a VIP mobile biometric service to allow selected Chinese businesses to apply for a visa from their work place. This has already received some excellent feedback.

Exceptional talent

We’ve made it easier for industry and academia in the UK to bring in exceptional people from across the globe by introducing a new Exceptional Talent visa route. It’s an elite category for world-class talent and provides more flexibility than other visa options. It’s overseen by four world renowned organisations: the Royal Society, the Arts Council England, The Royal Academy of Engineering and The British Academy.

Skilled workers

Our visa offer doesn’t end there; 20,700 talented job seekers can also come to the UK every year through our skilled worker route if they have a job with one of our 26,500 UK licensed employers.

A bright future

Our visa system is working: 96 per cent of Chinese visitors who apply for a visa get one and the average processing time for a (non-settlement) visa in China was less than seven days in 2012.

We are determined to ensure our visa system delivers excellent service and is globally trusted. We will continue making changes to improve our service. Those who have the most to offer and contribute to our society and economy will always find a very warm welcome here.

Mark Harper MP

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