(BVI NEWS) – Government has sought to clear the air on its controversial Immigration policy amendment exempting China nationals from the territory’s visa entry requirements.
On Tuesday, the Premier’s Office released a statement which says, though the Chinese no longer require a visa to enter the territory, they are only allowed to remain in the territory for a period not exceeding six months.
The Premier’s Office further said the Chinese will be granted access in the territory “for business and tourism related matters only”.
The Chinese will also be subjected to the normal border control procedures ‘in keeping with the laws of the territory’, government added.
Governement said this new policy favouring the Chinese was implemented to ‘augment’ its September 2016 decision to allow entry to persons who do not hold a BVI visa but have a United States, United Kingdom, or Canadian visa.
The Smith Administration’s latest statement comes amid major backlash from the local public who are vexed government has relaxed its Immigration policies for the Chinese.
British Virgin Islanders said they are concerned about the possible implications the policy could have on the territory.
But government said its decision to exempt the Chinese from visa requirements is part of a wider and ongoing move to generate revenue from the Asians in financial services and tourism.
Back in 2016, the territory made an application to China to receive Approved Destination Status (ADS).
ADS permits countries to promote their tourism in China and, in turn, allows China nationals to visit these countries.
“Countries without the ADS are not allowed to receive tourist groups from China or to promote their destination in China for tourism and are restricted to business and official travel groups only,” government explained.
“More than 146 different countries and territories have signed an ADS tourism agreement with the Chinese government, and over 127 countries actively engage in tourism promotion in China,” it added.
The government also pointed to other competing Caribbean destinations such as Antigua & Barbuda, Turks & Caicos Islands, and Jamaica, who have offered the Chinse visa-free access.
Government said it foresees several benefits to this visa exemption policy.
It said some of these benefits include enhancing the business traveller’s experience in the territory, helping to attract new clients, providing an easier access for the BVI’s International Arbitration Centre, and providing tremendous help to the territory’s global marketability in tourism and in the financial services sector.
China is said to be the territory’s largest trading partner for more than 25 years and mainland China and Hong Kong companies have accounted for 41 per cent of the $1.5 trillion in assets mediated through the British Virgin Islands.