Frivolous expense or essential service? We vote the latter – here's why you'd be daft not to use a visa company...
You've got no time
Always rushing around? Hardly got time to plan your next trip – let alone do the housework, pick the kids up, work through your iPlayer favourites? Then you probably don't have time to stand in a queue at the embassy for a day, filling out paperwork and fretting over whether your identity photo is the right size.
That's where a visa company comes in handy: not only do they employ people to stand in line for you, but they've got the inside scoop on how each visa application works – so they can get to the front of the queue quick as a wink. Leaving you plenty of time to get down to the planning, researching – oh, and the housework.
Money is tight
Sure, visa companies do add a fee onto the price of the visa – but it's not as much as you'd think. In fact, with their great connections at embassies, and the fact that they buy visas 'in bulk', they can often negotiate a better price than you'd pay if you did it yourself. Each case is different (depending on the difficulty of getting the visa, the conditions of your nationality, and so on), so get a few quotes and compare the prices. Also, if you're buying more than one visa at a time, there may be room for negotiation too.
Better yet, we give Wanderlust readers £5 off every visa bought from The Visa Machine
, with discount code WLU5
when you buy online – so you get even better value for money.
Don't forget, if you were getting the visa yourself you'd have to get transport to the embassy, courier the paperwork, maybe take time off work – so you'll save money by handing over the hassle to someone else.
There's too much red tape to negotiate
For some countries, you need to apply for a letter of invitation (or an 'Authorisation Code' if you're travelling to Iran) before you are even allowed to apply for a visa. These are issued from government departments or private companies in the country you will be travelling to – and it can be a red tape nightmare.
But visa companies know all the potholes inside-out, as well as all the right people in the right places. They'll get that letter of invitation before you can say “headed notepaper” – and then tie up the actual visa, too.
You hate application forms
Embassies are under no obligation to give you a visa – even if you've handed over a large wodge of your hard-earned cash. You've got no consumer rights either, so if they refuse you – that's it. Game over. So the last thing you want to do is give them an excuse to say no...
Frustratingly, that's easier said than done. Some embassies will refuse you if your identity photo is stapled in the wrong place, or if the application form is printed out instead of a pdf 'soft copy'. A visa company will know what needs doing (and how, and when), so there's no chance you'll scupper your application with a rogue staple. Round-the-world adventurer Johno Ellison learned all about getting your paperwork wrong
while trying to blag his way into Moldova...
You need the visa too far in advance
Some visas have a time limit, so you need to use them before the expiry date. So, if you're on a long trip and need a tricky visa for, say, four months from now – you'll need to apply while you're on the road. But that means sending your passport to an embassy (for who knows how long), leaving you away from home, without your passport, and unsure whether you'll be able to continue your trip. It happened to adventure cyclist Charlie Walker, and put his round-the-world trip in jeopardy
But that's where a visa company comes in handy. They'll sit down with you to figure out which visas you need (and when), and will advise if you need to get a second passport, find out which visas have flexible expiry dates, and even arrange couriers for important paperwork to reach you in the most obscure spots. So you can carry on with your travels, stress-free, knowing there's someone doing the visa run for you.
Need to buy a visa? Get £5 off each visa
from The Visa Machine
by entering exclusive discount code WLU5
when you buy online. Main image: Detail of passport page with international entry visa (Shutterstock)