Consumers warned of overpaying for US and Canadian visas via copycat visa application websites 2 months ago

Consumers warned of overpaying for US and Canadian visas via copycat visa application websites

The warning follows multiple complaints from consumers about being charged far more than expected for travel visas.

Consumers travelling to the United States, Canada and other countries have been warned to avoid copycat visa application websites overcharging for travel visas.

The European Consumer Centre (ECC) Ireland is advising consumers looking to make travel visa applications online to make sure they are using official websites following a number of complaints about copycat websites.

The complaints concern websites offering to process visas for travel to the United States (ESTA visas), Canada (eTA visas) and other countries. Consumers using these websites believe they have booked through official channels but then discover that they have been charged far more than they had expected due to additional administration costs being applied per visa.

People travelling to the United States can apply for an ESTA visa via the official website of the US Department of Homeland Security here. Applications cost $14.

People travelling to Canada can apply for an eTA here. Applications cost CAD $7.

Further advice on visas for Irish people travelling abroad is available on the Department of Foreign Affairs website here.

ECC Ireland spokesperson, Martina Nee, said: “We strongly advise consumers to be prudent when looking online for visas or when applying for other official documents. ECC Ireland has received complaints about third-party websites that, at first glance, look very similar to official sites but which charge much higher fees.

“Watch out for ‘copycat’ sites that may appear as sponsored ads at the top of a search engine result. These often appear more prominently than official websites and so it’s very easy to click on these first.

“Read the terms and conditions thoroughly, paying particular attention to any reference to management or other fees being applied on top of the cost for the visa itself – an official site would not charge extra for the processing of an application.

“There have also been cases where the total price to be paid has not be been made sufficiently clear. Make sure to verify the final payment amount before confirming the transaction. Take your time, do your research, know who you are dealing with and only use a secure method of payment, such as a credit or debit card, so that you may be able to avail of chargeback if something goes wrong.”

Further information is available on the ECC website.