Getting international travel or work visas isn’t always simple, especially for certain countries. We enlisted the help of the Center for International Business and Travel, a company self-dubbed as America’s Visa and Passport Professionals, to obtain our visas into both China and India. CIBT made it simple to fill out the necessary paperwork by e-mailing us packet detailing specific instructions to complete the needed applications. We simply told the company when we need our visas completed and returned by and they assigned a US embassy to us based on our geographical location.
While the company takes the guesswork out of knowing what you need, the task of gathering the additional passport photos, photocopies of driver licenses and getting all the required information on the appropriate forms was still extremely tedious. In fact, we made three trips back and forth to FedEx Kinkos just to get each packet completed. The key: don’t get frustrated with mistakes – our last trip for new copies was after we found an error on one of our applications.
Once the completed applications and accompanying materials were in the mail – it’s out of your hands. Days later we received an e-mail update simply stating our India visas should be complete by a certain date followed by our China visas. We assumed everything was on track. Unfortunately, we were wrong. Just several days before the deadline we selected for CIBT to return our passport, the company called to notify us we were not granted the Indian visa we had requested. We weren’t flat out denied, but the government refused to issue a year-long, multiple entry travel visa and instead issued a six-month, multiple entry visa. The problem? The India visas expired two days before our itinerary had us entering the country. When CIBT called to inform us of the change, it was almost as if they didn’t care we weren’t issued the visas we requested. When we asked our representative for a possible reason behind the change or our options to reapply or petition the government for an extension, we were told there was nothing we or the CIBT could really do. Can we call the embassy? Can we reapply? Can we get an extension once we are there? What can we do? The response: take the six-month visas or opt not to go to India. They were no help. To be honest, that’s the entire point of a visa service – to HELP you with issues like these. We could have easily contacted the embassies and filled out the appropriate paperwork on our own, but we opted to pay hundreds of dollars to hire a company in case something like this happened. We were told if we opted not take the Indian visas, we would not be charged. We asked for one day to decide if it was worth it to change our flight schedules and limit time in other places so we could get to India before our visas expired. Our CIBT rep told us that was fine – and to call her in the morning to let her know our decision. The next morning, much to our surprise, our passports with both the India and China visas arrived on our doorstep with the invoice for CIBT visas – charging us the full amount.
Was it worth it? No, not with CIBT. I have heard of other visa companies that do everything possible to ensure you get what you need. We realize we are dealing with the governments of foreign countries and often there is little to no wiggle room; however, it seemed CIBT was not even willing to try to contact the appropriate officials to find out more information and they sure weren’t willing to help us do anything else to get what we needed. If they did – I would say it was well worth the $974.49 total for both my husband’s and my visas to India and China. The fees are outrageously high. We paid $198.00 dollars in service fees alone for our visas to China and another 1$198.00 dollars for our India visas. Government fees for China totaled $293.72 and $159.44 in government fees for India – those are no big deal and can’t be avoided. We also were charged a $20.00 money order fee and a $25.00 passport replacement service fee in case our passports are lost or stolen (the latter we didn’t knowingly sign up for). The bottom of our invoice also states a 4.9% processing fee for the government fees and a 5% carrier fuel charge recovery fee!
I do recommend using a visa service, but next time I would research other companies and reviews.