7 Things to Look Out For When Hiring a Visa Agent
By Space Coast Daily // June 2, 2022
Look, let’s face it. Unless you’re willing to risk visa denial, working with a travel consultant is a no-brainer. These guys have the experience, know-how, and capacity to help you check all boxes involved in a visa application. They can spot a potential pitfall from a mile away.
They can knock off errors in your application. And they can help you tailor your visa to fit the expectations of the immigration officials.
So, yes, you need them for your visa processing.
But there’s a hurdle. How do you find a good one?
In a world where everyone is suddenly an online travel agent, finding an agent good enough to see your application through is like looking for a needle in a haystack. There are too many unproven agents out there. So, you need to be extremely careful when hiring one.
Below are some factors you need to look out for when hiring a visa agent to be sure you’re getting the right person.
7 things to look out for when hiring a visa agent
1. Track record
The first important thing to check for is the agent’s track record. Who have they worked with? Have they helped anyone secure a visa before?
An agent that’s helped students secure study permits in Canada shouldn’t find it difficult guiding you through your own Canada study permit application.
To find out about an agency’s track record, you can check their websites or social media pages for testimonials. See if there’s anyone on the page you can reach out to. Often, these guys post videos and pictures of clients they’ve helped.
If you can’t find anything tangible on their pages, check out another agent.
2. Area of expertise
Before agreeing to work with that visa agency whose track record screams ‘Fireeeee,’ check whether their area of expertise aligns with the type of visa you’re applying for.
This is important because different visa programs come with different requirements. If an agent hasn’t worked on a specific visa type before, they may not fully understand the program’s requirements. And sometimes, the difference between getting a visa approval and being refused lies in understanding the fine details.
For example, the US is renowned for its many visa programs, one of which is the ESTA. Many US travel agents claim they can help you secure visas into the US, but only a few actually understand what an ESTA entails. To apply for ESTA, you need an agent that’s worked on ESTA applications in the past. Not someone that’s worked on a B1/b2 OR F1 visa.
3. Personalized service
Some visa agencies work with so many clients that they rarely have the time to offer personalized services to one client.
If you’re serious about landing a visa, you don’t want to work with this type of agency. I know the fact there are many clients at their doorstep might make you think they’re the best in the business. But while that may be true, working with too many clients prevents an agency from offering the personalized service required for visa success.
The process of applying for a visa is quite lengthy. And you need an agent that will be with you every step of the way. Not one that’s too busy with other clients.
If you’re working with an agent that’s always busy with other clients, you may struggle to get hold of them when you need them the most. A good example of such a situation is when you have a visa interview, and you need your agent to come through with something before stepping in.
4. Licensing information
Although there are no common regulations guiding visa agents worldwide, it is still important to hire an agent that’s licensed by a reputed body.
For example, travel agents in the UK are regulated by a body known as ABTA. ABTA stands for the Association of British Travel Agents. Founded in 1960, this body is the largest travel association in the UK. If a visa or travel agent is ABTA-regulated, it means they can be trusted to comply with the best travel processing standards.
You may not live in the UK. But anywhere you are, find out about travel agency regulatory bodies in the region. This will help you separate the wheat from the chaff when scouting for travel agents.
When hiring an agent, you want to be sure you’re working with one that will not drain your budget. Of course, all visa agents charge a fee – it is how they manage to keep their doors open. But you have to ensure you aren’t being overcharged. Consult with many agents to compare prices before settling for one.
For example, it costs $14 for an ESTA status check application on the official US website. Logically speaking, you expect to pay more than this if an agent is handling your application. Because they, too, will charge a fee. However, you have to ensure you’re not being overcharged.
6. Credibility and trustworthiness
Credibility and trustworthiness are two important factors you must take seriously when dealing with a visa agent. It is okay to say an agent has a website and a believable social media page. But besides these,there are other considerations as far as trustworthiness is concerned.
How do you determine if an agent is credible and trustworthy?
■ Check if they are contactable: Does the visa service provider have a phone number? If they do, can you reach someone at this number? If yes, that’s a good sign. But if not, that’s probably a red flag.
■ Check if they’re transparent: Are the costs of visa procurement clearly stated, without small print? Be careful of agents with too many hidden charges and extra fees.
■ Check whether their offer is too expensive or too good to be true: Do the prices seem too high or too low (like way below what you find on other agents’ websites)? If you suspect an agent’s offer seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
7. What their service entails
Many visa agents love to claim they will handle everything for you, but the truth is that’s not possible. You, too, have some parts to play.
However, when hiring an agent, you want to make sure it’s one that’s committing only a small part of the process in your hands. Also, you must ensure the agent is the type that’s willing to oversee the parts being committed in your hands.
For example, most agents only ask their clients to submit the right documentation. When scouting for an agent, ask whether they offer assistance with document compilation. In other words, ask whether they will help you collate and vet your documents. If an agent says they help with such, that’s your man. But if not, you have to continue with your search.