When traveling overseas, you sometimes have to get an e-visa/visa waiver beforehand. The country you plan to visit will have the requirements and form online, and once you’ve filled it out and paid whatever amount they require, you should have a visa waiver in a matter of minutes, hours, or, at worst, days.
Unfortunately, there are lots and lots of fake websites out there. Some say they’re an official service, some pretend to be an actual government entity, and all of them add on an extra price to whatever the real e-visa cost is.
Here’s how to avoid those sites.
Let’s say you’re going to India for a week and want to get your Indian e-visa. If you Google “India evisa for USA,” the first hit is for www.indianvisaapplication.in and the title of the page is Official India Visa for USA Citizens. Except the site isn’t official at all; if you go down to the bottom of the page, there’s a whole paragraph that says how they’re not really an official site:
Point to note:- indianvisaaonline.org.in is a commercial website. We are not the Embassy/Consulate/High Commission or the representative of any Government Department of India. If you apply through indianvissaonline.org.in, we will consult, support all required documents for your e visa applications and you will get your visa update frequently and get visa result from us. To apply e visa under our processing, you will be charged service fee and Indian Government Fee. Besides that, you can apply in person at Indian Missions or official Indian Government Website. Our fee will be higher than you apply directly on Indian Government Website or at Indian Missions in your country. If you prefer a non-guided service, you can visit the Indian Government website.
So you could go to India’s authorized portal for visa application, fill out the form and pay $10, or you could use the “service” page above and pay the $10 plus a $127 service fee ($250 if you want expedited service).
In the example above, they at least admit they’re a service; many places don’t. If you’re lucky, they actually will fill out the application on your behalf and you’ll get your e-visa. Some companies just pocket the money, do nothing and you’re out of luck. And don’t expect the country in question to help you – most countries have a disclaimer on their page that warns against such scam sites.
So how do you find the official sites to get e-visas?
Well, they certainly don’t make it easy.
You’d hope that the official sites would be at the top of a Google search, but they rarely are. Instead, you’ve got the places like indianvisaapplication.in and ivisa.com that pay Google to have a higher listing on searches, and wait for the next rube to come along.
So look for websites that have .gov in them (and be aware of ones that use variations, like .govt).
By the way, the U.S. government has a bajillion pages for anyone who wants to get an e-visa to enter the United States. But if you want to find out how a U.S. citizen can get a legitimate e-visa to another country, don’t count on our government to help. At best they have a page with contact info for foreign embassies and consulates but all the links only give you emails and phone numbers, no websites. If there’s a “one-stop-shop” on the U.S. government’s web presence to can lead you towards what forms you need to fill out and where to find said forms, I sure can’t find it.
However, the U.K. government has a lovely page set up that gives you foreign travel advice for 225 countries and territories, and if you click on any of them, one of the categories included is “Entry Requirements.” Of course, whatever’s listed are entry requirements for U.K. citizens, which may or may not be what’s required for U.S. citizens. But if nothing else, it can be a reference for your search. Here’s the link.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary