Visa and Passport Websites

By | Category: Travel rumblings

When the USA joined the ever-increasing list of countries that charge for visas, CD-Traveller warned readers to be careful about visa service companies who masqueraded as the governments concerned and then charged you a fee.
Make no mistake, I am not criticising those legitimate companies who trade under their own names, only those that appear to be the US, the Australian or other governments. Or even ours. If you use a search engine to find the passport service, it isn’t our government that pops up first. No, because of Google highlighting ads for example, a commercial company pops up which gives every impression of being the passport service. How easy it is to get them confused but how expensive it can it be? Someone who requires a new UK passport fast was quoted £230 for what the passport service charges just £112.50. Can a £117.50 fee be justified just to check your application? And on top of that they charge £1.53 per minute for you to talk to them. One reader spent over 20 minutes on the phone to them so our guess is that they would have made another £14 or so on top of the excessive fee.
We shall report them to the Office of Fair Trading.(OFT)
You may have read that the OFT is investigating “deceptive” websites which charge for government services, and in particular, European Health Insurance Cards. A year ago they took action against four companies but it doesn’t seem to have deterred many. And the search engines aren’t helping by carrying their advertising.
In another case the charge for an Australian visa (which all British/|EU residents must obtain in advance) is free. Yet there are some sites that charge $A20 to give an instantaneous answer, just as the correct Australian agency does. Therefore the sites must be completely automated in their processing suggesting their profit margins must be huge.
So if you have been a victim or know of sites masquerading as government agencies for visas, passports or anything else, let the OFT know or e-mail us at editor@justabouttravel.net and we’ll pass the information on.
Incidentally, the government website for
UK passport apllications is https://passports.ips.gov.uk/epa1r1a/Rich/Formpage.aspx
USA travel authorisation is https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/
Australia visa is https://www.ecom.immi.gov.au/visas/app/uu?form=TV
And you do not need a visa to travel in the EU if your country is a member of the EU.

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