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I'm about to apply for a visa for an upcoming trip to China, so I'm looking into visa agents - those companies that will accept your passport and application documents by FedEx or UPS (etc.) shipment, submit the application on your behalf, pick up the passport with visa and ship it back to you. Because the process involves parting company with my passport, I want to be very certain that whatever visa agent I use will keep it secure and return it in the time frame that they say they will. Plus, of course, I also would like to know that I'm not handing a couple hundred dollars off to a scam artist (though I know this is quite unlikely). How can I tell whether a visa agent I'm considering is trustworthy? Is there anything like an accreditation procedure or a list of visa agents which are known to be legitimate?

The reason I wonder about this is that I have some concerns about one company which was suggested (if not necessarily recommended) by a colleague. On their website, they say that a visa application at the Chinese consulate in New York costs $140 plus a $60 service fee for 10 business day processing, or $160 plus $85 for 4 day processing; however, when I emailed them to confirm this, they said that $140+$60 was for 15 day processing and $160+$85 was for 10 day processing. Also, their web page says that the visa requires a confirmation letter from my US employer (in my case, my university), but this is not listed as a requirement on the consulate's web site. I know these are minor things, but it's enough to make me wonder why these inconsistencies are there, and whether they're signs of something I should be concerned about.

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To be on the safe side, I didn't to name the specific companies I'm looking at, though I can edit that information in if it would be useful and appropriate. –  David Z Sep 17 '12 at 20:18
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Related: travel.stackexchange.com/a/1527/82 –  user82 Sep 18 '12 at 0:54
    
nothing wrong with naming them, might help future people :) Also consider joining the Travel Chat room, someone may have some suggestions. –  Mark Mayo Sep 18 '12 at 4:32
    
Are you going to China to recruit students? Can't you just go on a travel visa? Which visa are you applying for? X, Z, F, or L? –  MaoYiyi Sep 19 '12 at 4:28
    
@MaoYiyi Does it matter for this question? I'll be attending a scientific conference, so I'm applying for an F visa. –  David Z Sep 19 '12 at 5:14

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

These days, we're lucky - we have the internet!

The best bet is to google their name. Odds are good that someone on the ThornTree website or elsewhere (a travel blog) will have mentioned their name if they're big and reliable, and also if they scammed them.

Try searching their name plus words like "problems", "successful", and the like.

Alternatively, you could ask another question on here asking for a recommendation for an agent to help with this. For example if you were asking about Russia or the 'stans, I could recommend a few, and I'm sure others would have experience with visas for China.

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Thanks for the answer! Though re: your last paragraph, recommendation questions are off topic, aren't they? (general SE policy and it's in the FAQ) –  David Z Sep 18 '12 at 4:14
    
Yup! "unless VERY specific criteria is listed". This is to prevent questions like "I have 3 weeks, where should I go in Europe?". Seriously, we do get those. But given it's a travel website, where people need advice, as long as they're VERY specific, we actually have a recommendations tag. –  Mark Mayo Sep 18 '12 at 4:20
    
OK, posted! –  David Z Sep 18 '12 at 19:26

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