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eVisa Asia? e-Visa rip-off!

A few minutes ago I had an email land in my inbox with the exciting title: “Getting visas for Asia travel just got easier” – from a company called eVisa Asia (at evisaasia.com – I haven’t linked to them, on purpose).

Sounds interesting, I thought. Kay and I travel in Asia quite a lot, and anything that can simplify the process of getting a visa has got to be worthwhile.

However, alarm bells started ringing as soon as I read the first few words: “Electronic visa – Print out your own visa before you fly.” Hang on, I thought – don’t we already do this for Cambodian visas?

And sure enough, the very first country they mentioned was Cambodia.

So I went and had a look at the site, to see how much they charge. To my not very great surprise, the charge was US$ 40 – for an e-visa you can obtain direct from the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation for just US$ 25.

Great. You pay them $15 for the privilege of introducing a totally pointless extra step into the process. They don’t appear to add any value – I just went through their process, giving a false name and uploading a picture of Dennis the BE Dog. It wasn’t any easier than doing it through the MFAIC’s own website. And in spite of the obviously dodgy photo*, they appeared perfectly happy to take my money (I didn’t hand any over, though).

As for Australia, that “only” costs US$ 20. For a visa you can get direct from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship for, um, nothing.

They claim an average of 300 applicants a day. Well, there’s one born every minute, after all.

Our advice is: if someone is trying to sell you a no-hassle way of obtaining an e-visa – or any other government service provided electronically, for that matter – always check out the relevant government department’s own website first. You’re likely to find that the same service is readily available, much more cheaply (or even free) – and you won’t have to hand over your credit or debit card details to an unknown commercial enterprise either.

*Following an approach from Dennis’s representatives, I’m happy to point out that it was, of course, the use of the photo that was dodgy and that no slur on Dennis’s character was intended or should be inferred.

PG Author: Dave

Dave was bitten by the expat bug at the age of 13 when he went to live in Germany. Since leaving school at the age of 30 (with a doctorate in something so obscure even he can't remember what it's about) he's also lived in Bangladesh, India and Thailand, and travelled to most European countries (including several that don't exist any more, though he denies responsibility), as well as Barbados, South Korea, St Vincent, UAE, Laos, and many more.

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8 Comments

JJ 01-09-2012, 07:57

On a related note, there are several companies in the UK that offer to supply an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card – to obtain reciprocal health cover as a tourist in the EEA, replaces the E111 in the UK) for “as little as” £10 and sometimes as much as £25. The card is of course free if you apply through the correct channels (see https://www.ehic.org.uk/Internet/startApplication.do).

A personal gripe is commercial organisations being able to use the term “… Agency” in their name, giving a veneer of authority in the eyes of those less cynical than me.

Dave McMahon 01-09-2012, 08:54

I couldn’t agree more, JJ. It’s not quite “passing off”, but it certainly creates a spurious impression of official approval.

The only benefit I can see of bringing a middle-man into the process in this way is familiarity with the system – to ensure no mistakes are made in filling in a complex form. But these forms aren’t complex – they’re well-designed, simple and straightforward. So I’d say the benefit gained is effectively zero.

Adding the extra step not only slows the data entry process down, it increases the scope for the data to get garbled in transmission. Why pay good money to reduce efficiency?

Simon 12-12-2012, 16:26

Australia ETA is not free even you get it from the official site. The website do provide some values added features and it looks pretty good and reliable.

Dave McMahon 14-12-2012, 07:11

Here’s a quotation directly from the Dept of Immigration & Citizenship’s wizard – I filled in details for an adult British citizen planning to visit Australia for up to three months on holiday.

There is no visa application charge or service charge for eVisitors. There may be additional costs associated with your visa, such as medical examinations (if required).

I’m not sure what an “Australia ETA” is, but the visa that eVisa Asia are charging $20 for is identical to the one that’s available free from the official site – a one-year multiple-entry visa allowing non-working visits of up to three months at a time.

I note that “Simon” doesn’t say what value the eVisa Asia “service” adds. As for being reliable, how trustworthy is a company that doesn’t even have a registered office address on its website?

I see also from the IP the comment was posted from that “Simon” appears to be in the same country that eVisa Asia appear to be based in. Obviously I can’t prove that “Simon” is a sock puppet, but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

“Simon”‘s comment doesn’t do anything to persuade me that eVisa Asia are any more reputable – quite the opposite, in fact. Am I being too cynical? I don’t think so.

Dave McMahon 15-06-2013, 04:10

I’ve just received an email from evisaasia.com’s founder, stating that they started it “about a year ago” and that they spent two years working out their system to make it a “one-stop visa center for all”.

That may be true, but it still doesn’t explain what value they add – you have to give them exactly the same information that you would have to provide the relevant foreign ministry, including uploading a photo. (Uploading a photo is the only slightly complicated part of the process, and even then only if you’re not technically minded – and the ministry websites generally give pretty good instructions on how to do it anyway.)

They also claim to have helped Cambodia to build their first electronic visa system. However, they fail to provide any evidence to support that claim. And the Cambodian service was launched in April 2006! So why did it take evisaasia over six years to develop their service, if they had the relevant knowledge back then? It makes no business or technical sense to delay – you make the most use you can of the knowledge you’ve got while it’s still current, otherwise you may find that the system you helped design has been replaced with a new one.

I stand by what I’ve said: this service adds no value at all that I’ve been able to discern so far. If anything, it introduces complications. And wouldn’t you rather have the peace of mind of knowing that you’ve been dealing with the responsible government authority, rather than paying to deal with an intermediary that has no official status whatsoever?

kzzzy1 24-08-2013, 12:16

Hi

I am looking to travel to Burma early next year. I want to apply for a tourist visa for Burma in my home country (NZ).

The nearest Burmese embassy is in Australia.Evisaasia appear to be offering a permission letter which can be used to obtain a visa at the airport on arrival in Burma.

All I want to know is, is this for real? If it is then it would save me a great deal of hassle. I would appreciate it if someone could verify that this permission letter would be genuinely accepted.

Dave McMahon 28-08-2013, 07:10

If you’re travelling as a tourist, you don’t appear to need a permission letter. According to the Government of Myanmar website, a permission letter’s required if you’re travelling on business or to attend public meetings, workshops or official ceremonies: http://www.mip.gov.mm/portfolio/the-required-terms-and-conditions-for-visa-on-arrival/.

If you’re travelling on a package tour, then the tour operator should provide you with any documentation you need anyway. But if you’re travelling independently, then you’ll need to provide at least the first address you’re planning to stay at.

The price that evisaasia.com are charging is way over the odds – $100, instead of the $40 it actually costs for the visa on arrival. Apparently this sort of “agency fee” is quite widespread, but it looks like a complete waste of money to me.

Scott McLean 17-07-2016, 08:25

Even though this will expose me as a complete idiot I just accidentally applied for an Australian visa from Japan through this site, and am now unable to cancel the application. Got confused about which website I was on and thought I was on an Australian government site, and that they had just redesigned the site and system. It just never occurred to me somebody would set up a “service” to do exactly what you do on the official government site, even when I had to set up a PayPal account/pay in US$. Just thought “didn’t have to do that before, wonder why they did that???” Luckily it only cost me the difference in the US20$/Aus20$ exchange rates. But felt like a moron when I realized my error, then came across this site’s post which cheered me up, so thought I’d leave a comment. Cheers!

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