Beware of online visa scams

A number of third-party websites claim to make applying for a visa simpler and quicker – for a fee, of course. The truth is many of these sites are overpriced, unnecessary and unlawful, and in most cases, downright fraudulent.

While many countries do offer the ability to apply for a visa electronically, you should exercise caution when choosing the website through which you apply.

Take, for instance, the websites masquerading as government of India websites offering online visa applications for entry to the country.

The Consulate General of India recently released this statement:

“A number of fake visa websites are operating on the internet, claiming to provide e-Tourist Visa services to visa applicants desiring to travel to India. In order to mislead applicants, some of these websites have created images and home page templates like the Government of India websites.”

Steer clear of these sites:

  • e-touristvisaindia.com
  • indianvisaonline.org.in
  • e-visaindia.com 

And head to the official Government of India website instead: indianvisaonline.gov.in

The Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website, www.smarttraveller.gov.au says you should only ever apply for visas with “links or organisations recommended by the diplomatic or consular mission of the country you are going to visit”.

It’s easy to be fleeced by these official-looking scam websites. They use all the right language, logos and even look like government websites.

What should set alarm bells ringing is the cost of a visa.

A visa for the US purchased though its official electronic system, US Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA), will only cost you A$14, yet a well-known scam site charges US$60.

The best way to find out where to apply for a visa to the country you want to visit, is to go to that country’s embassy or high commission website and search for the official electronic visa application website. You should also be able to find a visa cost estimator on the country’s official government website.

If you can’t find it on the embassy website, call and ask. It may take some time but could save you money and embarrassment.

And if you think you have been ripped off by an e-visa site, report it to the embassy of the country you’re planning to visit.

Have you been ripped off by an online visa scam?

Related articles:
Who has the most powerful passport?
Travelling without a visa
Cruising and visas

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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