BEIJING, June 18 (Xinhua) -- New visa rules for Chinese visitors to Britain has been well received, but many people have grabbed the opportunity to rake over the ashes of their previous visa headaches.
"HereinUK", a microblogger with almost 2 million followers, broke the news of a single visa for both Ireland and Britain, and a unified process for independent travellers to Britain and the 26 countries in the Schengen Area. It was forwarded more than 2,200 times and liked by hundreds.
Comments like "Great!" and "Let's start planning" were plentiful, but there was abundant sarcasm and complaining about existing procedures.
For Zhang Zhilan, 58, the headache was comprised of a mountain of documents and numerous, seemingly pointless trips to be made.
Zhang, from Tianjin, forty minutes from the capital by high-speed train, had to visit the British Embassy twice in 2012 when she wanted to visit her son who was studying in Britain. Since she planned to go to Switzerland on the same trip, she made two more visits to Beijing for the Schengen visa.
She filled out an eight-page application form and prepared a stack of documents, including her original and translated ID card, her household registration certificate, her retirement certificate, hotel bookings, air tickets, travel itinerary, her bank statement and property ownership certificate.
"I would say the scrutiny is as tight as the background check when one wants to join the Communist Party of China," she joked, but said her tour of Britain was very nice and she would go again if the process was easier.
Last year, Britain received more than 380,000 applications from Chinese nationals, up 31 percent.
Wei Ling, vice president of CAISSA Touristic (Group) AG, told Xinhua that simpler visa applications will be good for business.
"Britain is one of the favorite destinations of our clients. We have a lot of programs there," Wei said. "I hope the policy takes effect as soon as possible because the summer holidays are the prime season for travel to Britain. For instance, many Chinese parents would like to take their children to see Oxford and Cambridge."
Chen Qizhou who runs a small travel agency in Beijing, told Xinhua that, in his experience, the visa application service had plenty of room for improvement.
"A large part of the procedure is done online but the visa center's website is not very stable. From time to time, you just can not apply," Chen said. "Also, the phone enquiry service is not very helpful."
Among the new policies, Britain offers Chinese visitors a new 24-hour visa service, to be launched in August, with a fee of about 600 yuan (almost 1000 U.S. dollars) .
The British Embassy in Beijing has promised a simpler form for independent travellers on its website, as well as on mobile and tablet platforms.
In April, Britain opened a new visa center in Beijing, doubling capacity.
The visa measures were announced ahead of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Britain.