Getting Your Visa for International Travel the Easy Way

The New York Times has a piece on visa services. I contribute,

Gary Leff, a co-founder of, a website for veteran and would-be frequent fliers, and the blogger behind the miles and points site View From the Wing, has directed his readers to Allied Passport and Visa, which has given them discounts. He said the feedback from readers who have used the visa service has always been positive, though he has yet to try it himself because he’s one of those frequent fliers who have not been able to part with their passport.

I never used them because I lived in DC where countries all have embassies. Now that I’m only in DC about a week a month I will use them. For the record I’ve not taken any special consideration from them, I only use the best available public offer, but all the feedback from readers who have used them has been enormously positive.

I think it’s useful to,

  • Always check whether or not you need a visa when you book tickets and potentially even again before you travel. These things do change. Egypt has new requirements. Turkey recently eliminated visa on arrival. Venezuela instituted new rules.
  • Develop a relationship with a visa processing company who can offer you advice. For instance, India has new rules that allow online processing and approval for tourist entry, but what if you will enter and then leave and come back through India on your return? Turns out the process doesn’t allow re-entry for a defined period of time.

These things are complicated. Although for the self-service inclined a great resource is the TIMATIC database accessible via the Star Alliance website. I always look up visa requirements myself, and it’s useful to see just what the airlines will see when they look up rules for your travel.

Brazil was a pain when I did that one a couple of years back, if only because not only do you have to go and get money orders (which is common) but you also have to send things via USPS Priority Mail (and not FedEx and similar). Who uses Priority Mail any more?

And the last time I did India they wanted me to list every country I had visited when there was only space on their online form to list about 5. I included an addendum with my package, although the truth is they probably just wanted to know if I had been to Pakistan.

A visa company can make things easier largely because they know the process and do it frequently, so they know what instructions actually mean (usually) and what to expect in response from an embassy or an outsourcing company used by the embassy. Often instructions can be confusing, people get things wrong, so having someone walk you through the process can help – and the fees are frequently quite modest (the biggest fees will be charged by the country whose visa you want, plus for all of the document shipping).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I used A. Briggs for a China visa, and found them to be very quick even though I didn’t order rush service. You can track your documents on their website as well.

    Their customer service was lacking, and they charge higher fees than Allied, but as China is enforcing its region specific requirement, and Allied is based in DC with no offices near other consulates, using Allied you will pay an additional $60 if you live outside the region covered by DC vs A. Briggs that has offices near each consulate.

  2. Allied passport and visa deserves all the recent good blogger referrals they have been getting. We visited them today for extra passport pages and Peter and Steve are great.

  3. I’m one of those weird people who do my own visa and passport applications, probably because I’m used to filling out visa applications and providing the requested documentations prior to naturalization to US citizenship. Also, being that I was in LA and close to NYC, there are many consulates nearby to process the applications in-person. The only one I had to mail the passport was Mongolia. While it took longer than expected, the embassy staff did answer the phone and provided the status, since I called daily after the deadline was passed.

    Also, you can pay your USPS Priority Mail postage online – super easy, and it’s cheaper than taking it to the post office. Plus you can drop it off at any mailbox. A lot of times the rate is cheaper than UPS or FedEx, even with volume/negotiated discount.

  4. interesting that some corporations are so close to some governments that they can cut through the process. I might have a trip somewhere next month that would require a couple of hundred buck fee and sending my passport away for a week. Turns out my funder said just send us a photo of the page and we’ll take care of it. Interesting to see how some things work.

  5. @MarkTheShark, ABriggs was bought by CIBT. So understandably your comment was really about poor CIBT customer service.

  6. I just used Visa Central and getting the Visa back this monday for China. They have several extra costs which should be at no fee. If ou upload a digital photo they charge $25.00. For their online PDF fill out form that will enter that same data into a Chinese Visa form that cost is $75.00. You can fill the Chinese paperworld yourself and also look at their fill in form for some clarification on things. Also use google for some clarifications

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