Wendy Wu Tours is warning the trade about new fingerprint visa applications for China after being granted a temporary exemption from the entry laws.

New legislation which came into force last month means any British passport holders over 14 and under the age of 75 visiting China on holiday must have fingerprints taken when submitting a visa application.

As a result, customers will now have to visit a Chinese consulate in person to get fingerprints taken as part of the visa application process. The consulates are in London, Manchester and Edinburgh, and long queues mean waits of up to  four hours, according to the operator.

It is thought the move could impact the speed of growth in visitor numbers to China, visited by around 660,000 Brits last year.

Wendy Wu Tours is understood to be one of “very few” companies given an exemption to the new rules. It is urging agents to get in touch in the next month to avoid clients having to go through the new lengthy application process.

The exemption means Wendy Wu can process visa applications for a £310 fee for agents’ customers without fingerprints until December 3 for travel up to December 2020.

The operator has also launched a ‘visa-only’ service for the trade and is encouraging any agents with clients booked or planning to go to China – even if no booking has been made or a booking is with a different tour operator – to use the service. Applications must be made via Wendy Wu Tours by November 26 to ensure there is enough time to process the visa.

The operator already has a step-by-step guide to help visitors to apply for a visa.

Founder Wendy Wu said: “We want to help travel agents and we want them to tell their customers who are thinking about a trip to China. This service will help them close sales and make it easier, so that their customers don’t have to stand in long queues.”

Wu fears the visa law change will slow growth in visitor numbers to China because of the inconvenience it will cause holidaymakers. The operator has already lobbied against the move, mooted for some time.

She said: “The new visa legislation is inconvenient and we will continue to say this to officials whenever we have the opportunity. It’s not going to help the Chinese tourism market. The market to China is growing but this will reduce the speed of the growth.”

There are some exceptions in the new regulations for brief stopovers in certain regions in China when holidaymakers are flying on to other destinations.

Chinese visitors are required to give fingerprints when they apply for a visit to this country.