(BBC) A new two-year visa system for Chinese nationals visiting the UK will begin next week, the foreign secretary has announced.
It will enable visitors from China to make multiple trips to the UK for longer periods, the government said.
The visa is available for business people to attend conferences or to investigate setting up a business, and tourists.
Philip Hammond announced the new rules on an official visit to Beijing.
British visitors to China will also get the same visa arrangement, which will cost £85. This is the same price as the six-month visitor visa that Chinese and UK tourists are currently limited to.
‘Interchange and exchange’
The change was agreed in principle during President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the UK in October.
Mr Hammond said: “It is designed to make it easier for Chinese business people, for Chinese tourists to visit the UK and we hope that it will herald the beginning of a far higher level of interchange and exchange between our two peoples.”
He added that “in due course we would like to see this two-year visa extended to a 10-year multiple entry visa”.
“That remains our aspiration and we will work with our Chinese partners towards it,” he said.
There are also plans to extend the UK’s mobile fingerprinting service, which captures the biometrics needed for applications, from nine to 50 Chinese cities.
The number of Chinese visitors has almost trebled over the last five years from 115,000 in 2009 to 336,000 in 2014 with each spending on average £2,688 every time they visit, the Foreign Office said.