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.