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ESTA visa waiver process - be warned

Geelong, Australia
Level Contributor
290 posts
21 reviews
19 helpful votes
ESTA visa waiver process - be warned

I've been foolish and didn't realise it until a friend told me she only paid $14 for her ESTA visa waiver for her trip to New York through her travel agent. I paid $69 to what I thought was the official ESTA site (thanks Google Adwords). I thought I had checked it out thoroughly, the site looks credible, so I just assumed it was legit. Anyway, turns out I was wrong and a rather large commission has gone to Polani Travel in Hounslow, Middlesex, UK, so I am informed by my bank statement.

The official site to use for application is:

https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

But note that some of the 'agents' use that site for the form filling, so you think it's official. Check the home page thoroughly before you apply, or just use the link above.

429 replies to this topic
Stockport, United...
Level Contributor
1,218 posts
83 reviews
51 helpful votes
1. Re: ESTA visa waiver process - be warned

Before your trip has even started people are stiffing you for a few dollars leaves a bad taste in the mouth doesn't it ! something should be done to more easily identify these sites as unofficial .

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
10,934 posts
26 reviews
11 helpful votes
2. Re: ESTA visa waiver process - be warned

Oh....I did that on Monday. A different company:

https://usaevisitors.com/?lang=en

But I felt very unwell afterwards. I wasn't sure it wasn't a scam and I'd given them my name, birthday, address, email, credit card number and password.... the company is fine and make it fairly clear on the form page (if you scroll down) that you can apply through them or through the official site - https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/) so it was my stupidity.

It was OK in the end (except the $60 extra charge)

Two days later I fell off a ladder trying to retrieve my cat from going over the roof tops...in hospital emergency for a while but luckily am OK...waiting for me to do ONE MORE STUPID THING THIS WEEK :-)

Edited: 4:38 am, September 13, 2012
Geelong, Australia
Level Contributor
290 posts
21 reviews
19 helpful votes
3. Re: ESTA visa waiver process - be warned

In fairness, some of the sites that offer this service, particularly those based in the USA, clearly show a link to the official site, offering the site visitor the choice. The site I used provided one link only, which looked like the official form. Oh well, I won't fall for that again.

Melbourne
Level Contributor
1,410 posts
6 reviews
7 helpful votes
4. Re: ESTA visa waiver process - be warned

Out of curiosity, how did you come across those other sites anyway?

The official site is the first one listed on Google when you search for 'esta' or 'us visa waiver' etc.

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
10,934 posts
26 reviews
11 helpful votes
5. Re: ESTA visa waiver process - be warned

at least they weren't really expensive scams...I still shudder when I think about the half hour it took to work out how STUPID I'd been....

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
10,934 posts
26 reviews
11 helpful votes
6. Re: ESTA visa waiver process - be warned

Hi MelbTraveller...I googled "usa visa waiver" ..I looked at a few, the one I choose was the first one on the resultant list

AND it did look 'official'...moreso than others I looked at...

the official one is the 4th in the list (but the 1st in the non-pink section of the google list)..stupid..I already know!

Edited: 4:58 am, September 13, 2012
Melbourne
Level Contributor
1,410 posts
6 reviews
7 helpful votes
7. Re: ESTA visa waiver process - be warned

Hmmm how strange, when I Google it it's the very first result and it says "official site" in the little description under the link!

Ah well, you'll know for next time now, at least you still got it done!

Geelong, Australia
Level Contributor
290 posts
21 reviews
19 helpful votes
8. Re: ESTA visa waiver process - be warned

Yes MelbTraveller, lucky it wasn't a huge amount of money. I Googled ESTA Visa Waiver USA and it comes 4th for me too. JennyR261, I would have been none the wiser, but I was comparing travel plans with a friend who is travelling to NYC as well, and I said, 'don't forget your visa waiver...........etc etc'

Bangor, United...
Level Contributor
3,168 posts
30 reviews
21 helpful votes
9. Re: ESTA visa waiver process - be warned

It is technically 4th on the list but only because the top 3 "results" are Ads, which it does clearly state ("Ads related to ESTA Visa Waiver USA" ... "Why these Ads?"). You're safest to ignore the ads at the top when you run a search and start looking where the actual results begin - after all, anyone can pay for their site to be advertised up there. Sorry you paid more than you needed though :-(

Brooklyn, New York
Destination Expert
for New York City
Level Contributor
27,369 posts
10. Re: ESTA visa waiver process - be warned

See, I always automatically ignore the ads at the top of the list when I search anything, because they're, well, ads. That's good practice in general.

So, yes, at least it wasn't a super expensive mistake, and maybe it'll save you from making a more costly one in the future.

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