Readers will know that in 2011, the Irish government introduced a new holiday and short-stay Visa waiver programme for 16 countries whose nationals previously required a visa to visit Ireland. This programme allows nationals of countries such as India and China who have a short-term UK visa to come to Ireland, without the need for a separate visa. This scheme, which will run until 2016 is obviously welcome. But what do we know about the UK visa system?
Well, the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) is highly critical of it. It recently revealed that hundreds of millions of pounds are lost to the UK economy every year because its visa process is so alienating, that applicants give up and decide to go elsewhere.
The ETOA cite the following examples:
- In 2010, just 3% of Chinese visitors to Europe obtained a UK visa, 2% obtained both UK and Schengen visas and 95% obtained just a Schengen visa
- France now attracts over 50% more visitors from India than the UK
- In 2009, Switzerland joined the Schengen Area. As a result, Indian visitor arrivals to Switzerland increased by 49% between 2008and 2010. This compares with a growth rate of 3% in arrivals from India to the UK over the same period
- The UK tourist visa costs £78 and offers two countries, the Schengen visa costs €60 and offers 26 countries