I’ve previously mentioned Allied Passport & Visa — they’re my go to service for visas & passports, as I don’t have the patience to deal with consulates directly. While there are fees to use a visa service, it can save you a lot of time and money, rather than having to visit a consulate directly, wait for hours, etc.
Allied recently helped me obtain my 10 year China visa. So I thought it would be interesting to ask the guys behind Allied Passport of Washington D.C. something fun about their little-understood industry: what does Allied love and hate about their customers? Their answers may surprise you.
In the interest of full disclosure, no money changed hands for this post, and I pay for my service with them just like anyone else does. The extent of my financial relationship with them is that if you mention OneMileAtATime on your order form you’ll receive a $5 discount on any order, and I get a small referral commission as well. Their online reviews speak for themselves.
We at Allied Passport & Visa always love our customers. Our reviews attest to it. This is just a fun little list so please take our “hates” lightly and with a grain of salt. — Steve Gempeler & Peter Gulas, Owners
Love – Our customers are excited
For us, we’re genuinely delighted to assist travelers traveling internationally. The enthusiasm of students applying for study abroad visas or families taking their first international trip together, gives us a buzz knowing we play a small part in making these trips possible.
Hate – Our customers can get overly excited
Allied is opportunely located near the Embassy Row neighborhood of Washington DC. We receive shipments from all over the United States. We often receive calls from eager customers that track their shipment down to the minute it’s delivered to our office and no more than two minutes later will we receive a call requesting us to confirm the package was received and if “everything looks ok?”
Again, we love the enthusiasm, but we do need more time to open, review and input customer data into our system. A good visa service will email their customers a confirmation of receipt and let you know if any documents need modification within an hour or two.
Love – Our customers are incredibly grateful they do not have to visit an embassy in person
One key reason the visa service industry remains secure for the foreseeable future is that a lot of embassies will not accept applications by mail (for obvious security reasons). There are many countries remaining that will sign for your package, but let’s say for example, you live in Nebraska and need a China visa.
China requires someone, anyone in fact, to hand deliver your documents to their consulate. The jurisdiction for Nebraska is Washington DC, an especially long drive or expensive flight (plus hotel for processing time) for those who do not have an acquaintance living in the area who can submit on your behalf. This is where we come in.
Frequently we receive calls from rattled travelers just weeks before their trip, who thought they’d need to trek to Washington to apply in person for their visa. First time visa acquirers are especially grateful when they realize there are private companies who will submit visa applications on their behalf, ultimately saving a lot of money.
Hate – Customers who think they are being clever by skimping on shipping
We’re always amazed when customers send their passports to us the cheapest way imaginable. Although seldom, we do receive passports sent in a single stamped envelope or by other ground services which can take a week or more to deliver.
Ironically, since processing times start once we receive your documents, customers are often bumped to the next processing level, incurring additional embassy fees and service fees. Fortunately for us, our customers tend to be very reasonable and put the blame on themselves saying how they will never ship that way again!
Saving $20 on shipping could end up costing a traveler hundreds more in visa fees or thousands potentially if his or her trip is missed entirely. We recommend using any Fedex service (except ground).
Love – Customers who read our website
We adore our customers who call with great questions, need clarifications, or inquire about unique travel situations after already reviewing our website! (There is nothing we dislike more than when someone calls and asks “what are the requirements to obtain a visa to X country?”) We’ve tried to make the process of acquiring visas and passports as easy as possible. We consider our website our customers’ greatest resource.
In 99% of all cases, everything you need to know, from requirements to processing times, fees & payment are all right there at your disposal.
Hate – Customers who read too much elsewhere
A lot is on the line with visas and passports. So it is understandable customers want their submissions to be perfect. A bad tendency however is to read too much elsewhere.
For example, a customer inquires “I read on Flyertalk that Brazil requires applicants to submit copies of hotel reservations, but your company doesn’t have this as a requirement. Do I need to supply a hotel reservation?”
Message boards, blogs and even official embassy websites surprisingly can be inaccurate or outdated. It is best to rely on a visa service’s website as our information is more up to date since we make daily trips to embassies. Plus, we never want to make more work for ourselves, so if it is required we will have it listed!
Love – Customers who apply well in advance for their visa or passport
It may seem that our industry becomes most lucrative when travelers wait until the last minute to apply for their visas or renew their passports. But this isn’t always the case.
Discovering an expired passport just days before flying internationally or booking an unbelievable last minute deal or price mistake fare to China often leads travelers scrambling to obtain travel documents quickly, making these “deals” not as inexpensive as initially projected. If you are faced with this type of scenario, expedited fees can result in double, if not triple the fee which will be paid to both the embassy and visa-passport service.
Although this may sound counterintuitive to our business model, we’d much rather receive your documents well in advance. This takes pressure off of us and ultimately leads to a higher customer satisfaction rate. Providing us with more processing time also allows us to bundle applications together creating less trips to an embassy.
Many embassies do offer rush service and supply definite dates visas will be issued. But there are also a handful of embassies that keep us guessing by giving us the old “when it’s done it’s done” response. In these cases, if a traveler departs for their trip 4-5 business days from our date of submission, we need to return to that embassy every day until ready for collection, which cuts into profits. In the end, profits for emergency processing fees and standard processing fees usually become breakeven.
Hate – Customers that don’t understand we are not the one issuing their visas
Very rarely do we receive a complaint from a customer, but when we do it usually is when a customer receives a visa that has a shorter duration or number of entries than they requested. Visas are issued entirely at the discretion of an embassy.
Allied Passport is not a foreign government, and although we can certainly inquire as to why a customer wasn’t issued the visa they requested, we can in no way alter international immigration law to obtain a visa you didn’t qualify for. Usually, once this is explained we get an “aw shucks” customer response.
Love – Customers asking which credit card they should use with us
We’re miles collectors ourselves and are always happy to discuss with customers which credit card gives you the best bonus. Allied and most other visa services post to Travel categories.
Hate – Customers that initially refuse to send us their passports
This last one always makes us giggle. We at least twice a week receive a call from someone asking “why can’t I just fax or email all my documents to you? I don’t want to give up my passport.” The answer is simple; we need your actual physical passport so the embassy can put the visa label inside it!
This apprehension usually stems from sending your passport(s) to an unknown entity. Totally understandable! Before using our service or another, be sure to check a company’s Yelp, Google or BBB reviews first.
Have you used a passport or visa service before? What was your experience?
Allied Passport & Visa is located in downtown Washington DC. Mention OneMileAtATime on your order form to receive a $5 discount on any order.