Earlier today, UKVI issued an announcement which is reproduced here in its entirety...
I am writing to update you on further improvements to the UK's visa
service in China.
Today the UK and Belgian governments have announced a new pilot scheme
that will streamline the visa application processes for Chinese
nationals wanting to visit the UK, Belgium and the Schengen area as
part of the same trip.
From July 1, the UK-Belgian Visitor Service will allow Chinese
customers to submit their visa applications for both countries during
a single visit to a UK visa application centre in Beijing, Guangzhou
UK and Schengen visa policies have not changed. UK visa applications
will be assessed independently of Belgian visa applications. But
Chinese customers will benefit from the convenience of applying for
two visas as part of a single process.
The new service is the latest in a series of initiatives to make it
easier for tourists from around the world to visit the UK as well as
the Schengen area. Last June, for example, we extended a pilot
project which allows Chinese visa applicants using the UK online
system to have their details uploaded automatically to the Schengen
form to save time.
We believe the UK-Belgian Visitor Service will be popular with Chinese
travellers and we understand many travel agents in China will
introduce new tours to take full advantage of it.
China is the UK's largest visa market and the number of tourists and
business travellers we welcome continues to grow. In the year ending
March 2015, the UK issued 420,174 visas, a 9% increase on the previous
year. 343,000 of these were visit visas, a 10% increase. This
demonstrates that our clear focus on customer service is having a
We offer an excellent visa service in China and have made a number of
changes to create a quicker and easier process for customers, such as
our existing priority and super-priority visa services and the
expansion of our on-demand mobile visa service.
We are confident the UK-Belgian Visitor Service will bring huge
benefits to the UK, Belgium and, most importantly, our Chinese
customers. This scheme will create a one-stop shop for Chinese
visitors to the UK and Europe, whether they are coming here for
business or leisure. We will continue to make sure our visa services
are world-class to ensure that our borders are protected and that
Britain remains open for business.
This extraordinary pilot project is quite likely aimed at not losing market share to tourists planning to visit Schengen only. The first step in this pilot appears quite modest and involves the commercial partner only without commingling their decision-making operations. If the pilot is successful, this will enable (perhaps) the two governments to collaborate on a common infrastructure and further streamline the decision-making process; ideally a single visa (issued by the UK).
The Republic of Ireland is doing something similar in a different programme.
Note: another "new" aspect in this announcement is the "expansion of our on-demand mobile visa service". This is where an applicant can have a van come around to his residence (but more commonly his work place) to collect biometrics, go over the forms, and make the 'informal' decision if everything is in order.