10 Things Allied Passport & Visa Service Love (And Hate!) About Their Customers

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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.

Image of 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

Allied-passport-visa-5We 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.

Allied-passport-visa-2

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.

Comments

  1. Wow, now you’re making full on adverts in your posts.

    Also, by what logic does paying someone else to get you a visa save you money? The fact that you’re unable to get a visa yourself is pretty dismal, these services are ridiculous and the people who use them are even more ridiculous – grow up

  2. I have a question, how does rushing a visa application work? Surely if you go direct to the consulate and ask for a rush, it’ll be quicker than asking a third party for a rush? Do we even save any time using this service? I would have thought it would be quicker to just ask the embassy myself

  3. I just had to renew my passport for the first time so I don’t know if my experience is typical or out of the norm but I sent my renewal “stuff” in to the gov’t address (UPS 3 day priority mail) and had everything back in 15 days.
    Is that normal?

  4. @Sam Did you read the whole post? If you want a Brazil visa, you have to do it in person. If you live in Kentucky for example, it will cost more than $49 to get to the nearest consulate. Let alone the DC embassy which is technically the territory. There is also opportunity cost. A lawyer that could be billing a client hundreds per hour doesn’t want to waste part of his/her day in lines.

  5. @ Sam: Did you even read the post?
    “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.” Get it?

  6. Please be totally transparent in your business with Allied and disclose what your commission would be. Thanks

  7. Yeah Lucky. How dare you give us good information that could be helpful to those of us who travel. THE NERVE OF YOU.

    I really don’t know how you constantly turn the other cheek. My blood pressure from the stupidity would make my brain explode.

  8. @Flyer94 – If he makes a commission, it’s between 1-99%. Let’s assume Allied keeps at least some of the fee. If this is appalling to you, feel free to not use their service.

  9. @neil s. I never said it was appalling so not sure how you even picked up on that. I’m more likely to use the referral if I understand what he’s getting on the back end. Otherwise $5 saving is not even worth it for me or anyone else.

  10. Neil S I love your sarcasm . Good on you. Lucky is a wealth of information.
    Merry Christmas everyone
    Happy Chanukah
    Happy flamin holidays

  11. @ Neil S.
    “Yeah Lucky. How dare you give us good information that…. ”
    Maybe it’s because I’m not a native speaker, but I don’t get the reason for your obvoius annoyance. Could you be a little more distinct?

  12. Interesting to read they’d rather receive more applications with more processing time than applications that need to be rushed. Commenting on the advertising comments, isn’t any post mentioning AA, Hyatt etc by Lucky considered advertising?

  13. Lucky,
    I’ve used this company a bunch of times, recently for Brazilian visa. They’re really good. Didn’t know you used them too.

  14. @Sam….actually, these services are quite useful when the embassy or consulate of the country you want to visit is quite far from where you live. For example, every year I return to the US (Alabama) to get a new work visa for Russia, as each visa expires at the end of my one-year contracts that I sign, and can’t be extended in Russia (I refuse to sign long-term contracts in Russia). The Russian consulate is in Houston, and I use a visa processing company to handle my visa applications. I get the official invitation from my employer, and I send that, my passport, and a visa photo to the company, and they submit it to the consulate. It saves me a lot of money, because I don’t have to fly or drive to Houston, and I don’t have to pay for a hotel stay. So, your comment about “grow up,” why don’t you take your own advice? It works for some people. If I lived in the same city as the consulate, I would do it myself, but I don’t, so the service is quite convenient…..

  15. I have used this company twice (China 1 year visa in 2012, and China 10 year visa in 2015) and had an excellent experience both times. Highly recommend them – great service at a good price.

  16. I used this service for China this year and a different service (I think) for Uganda years ago. I wan’t comfortable sending my Passport to the Ugandan embassy directly. So this service gave me peace of mind.

    As to China, I live in Seattle and would have had to go to San Francisco to get the Visa. I reckon the service saved me about $100 vs. airfare etc.

    I used the $5 discount… hey why not.. yes its not a fortune, but it paid for a drink at the bar!

  17. Hate — middle man.

    Unlike @Lucky who paid someone else to get it done, but fortunately because I live in NYC where every country that’s represented at the UN has a a consulate, embassy or a “mission” in the city, I cut out the middle man and when straight to the Chinese Consulate last Tuesday and applied for a visa for China in person, and in the space provided for additional comments, I simply wrote that I wished to be considered for a 10-year validity visa for China with the application. I was told that would sufficient to be considered for the new 10-yr visa for China. I was also told everything would be ready a couple of days later, so last Thursday I went to pick up my passport and stamped in it was a new 10-yr visa for China! It cost me just $160, the same cost as for any other type expedited US-to-China visa…

  18. @Sam and DCS

    Some of us use visa services, even if we live in New York or cities with consulates/embassies, because we simply don’t have the time to deal with schlepping around to the various embassies and consulates to get the required visas. Many of us are happy to pay someone else to deal with it so we don’t have to. Also, in Lucky’s case, he doesn’t know where he’s going to be 5 days out, let alone a month out, a visa processing service is perfect for someone with his schedule.

    Also, that if you are going to more than one country that requires a visa on the same trip, if you opt for sending your passport to the embassies/consulates directly, you have to wait for one country to process their visa and send you your passport back before you can send your passport off to the next country to get processed. Visa services will typically handle the application in person so they get multiple visas processed in a much shorter time period.

  19. Lucky has credibility, at least to me. He has credibility with many people that I know in real life, that I trust. When I needed a Chinese visa, I saw that Lucky recommended Allied, and noted that he got a commission. I was not comfortable in any way sending my passport from my home in Texas to some stranger in Washington, D.C., but since Lucky was the one that suggested it, I trusted him, and it was a very positive experience in a transaction that I had to do, and did not want to make.

    So screw off, you pissy trolls. If you don’t like it, read another blog.

    Thank you, Lucky.

  20. An advertorial is an advertisement in the form of editorial content. The term “advertorial” is a blend (see portmanteau) of the words “advertisement” and “editorial.” Merriam-Webster dates the origin of the word to 1946.[1]
    In printed publications, the advertisement is usually written in the form of an objective article and designed to look like a legitimate and independent news story. In television, the advertisement is similar to a short infomercial presentation of products or services. These can either be in the form of a television commercial or as a segment on a talk show or variety show. In radio, these can take the form of a radio commercial or a discussion between the announcer and representative. The concept of internet-based advertorials is linked to native advertising; however, whether the two terms are synonymous is a point of discussion.[2][3]

  21. Some of you are so childish simply being upset because Ben gets a commission. That’s how life works. When u click a link on Google, are u upset that Google gets a commission?

  22. I usually do it myself because I am able to work a visit to a consulate into my travel plans but the last time I wished I had used a service even though I was in the consulate city. It was the Chinese consulate in Houston and my wife was a new U.S. citizen so had additional requirements to get the visa as a former Chinese citizen. I encountered several undocumented requirements around number of photo copies of various supporting documents that left me running to a local store to get quarters for the copy machine and then several trips back and forth to the copy machine and window. A visa service would have insulated me from these surprises.

  23. I Just used their service to obtain 3 Russia visas b/c of your review. I was totally impressed with their professionalism, promptness and reasonable fees. They promptly answered my questions, kept me informed of the status, and accurately suggested the time necessary for processing the visas. Thanks you for your referral, which saved me $5 per order. They will certainly now also be my “go-to” agency for visas.

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