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Thread: Visiting the United States?

  1. #1
    ‹bermensch
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    If you Google the United States Embassy to apply for an on-line authorization (ESTA) to visit the US under the Visa Waiver Program, you should be aware of a number of websites that offer to get your document for a fee, typically $49.99. They look official but are unauthorized agencies with no connection to the US Government.

  2. #2
    Ultra King Dave Mycroft's Avatar
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    Thanks for that Hugh.

    I love the FAQ page, especially

    I'm Canadian! What do I do?
    Panic.


  3. #3
    Ultra King Trevor D Gamble's Avatar
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    Thanks there Hugh, yes one should always try to stick just to the actual official Homeland Security websites.

  4. #4
    Goon
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    http://www.unitedstatesvisas.us/ is NOT the official US site. It looks very amateurish with the lame jokes, it doesn't work in Firefox and it does not give any details about the company in the "About Us" section. I'd be very very wary of using it and certanly wouldn't give them a credit card number, personal info like passport number and details of when you're going to be out of the country (and when your home is likely to be empty).

    ESTA applications are FREE - read all about them and link to the official system at the US Embassy site

  5. #5
    Ultra King Trevor D Gamble's Avatar
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    Good job you clicked on Hugh's link there Doc! As I sure did'nt! I just assumed that Hugh had the real Department of Homeland Security site there! Yikes, that sure is a clever fake site there isn't it! You would think that the US would have closed that site down!

  6. #6
    ‹bermensch
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    Doc: You are making me nervous! Are you sure that you are correct? I used this site yesterday and got my authorization this morning. ESTA applications are free but I believe that the authorization costs £8.00. I paid by credit card via PayPal and have received an email receipt in the normal way.

    Please put my mind at rest!

  7. #7
    Ultra King Trevor D Gamble's Avatar
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    London US Embassy alerted to that fake site by email so it can be blocked. Hugh alerted by pm.

  8. #8
    Ultra King Trevor D Gamble's Avatar
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    Hugh, it is a site charging you for doing something you yourself could do for free basically. As such it is a rip off outfit making hay out of the fact there is a good deal of confusion amongst potential travellers to do with the newly introduced system.

  9. #9
    Ultra King Trevor D Gamble's Avatar
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    official site. Estas can be submitted here free of charge.

  10. #10
    Ultra King Trevor D Gamble's Avatar
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    Hugh you can get that money back from your credit card company ok! Just tell them you seem to have fallen foul of a fake site.

  11. #11
    Goon
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    Sorry I had to do some work.

    That site is registered to an individual in New Zealand - Whois entry here. At best you've paid someone to pass through your data to the official site, At worst you've given very significant personal details through to an ID thief.

    Visa application sites are well known for scammers. Be very careful.

    I haven't applied for an ESTA myself yet, but the US embassy says that "US government does not charge for ESTA registrations" - link here

  12. #12
    ‹bermensch
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    Sincere apologies for providing, albeit in good faith, dangerously misleading information. I was an unwitting victim of what I was warning you about.

    It looks as though I have received a valid ESTA and that I have used a site that has charged me for a free service. I've cancelled my credit card and I'm in the process of checking with the Embassy that the document I've received is valid. I also have a PayPal receipt for the transaction and my credit card company confirms that it has been debited correctly from my account.

    The only other worry is that someone knows my address and my departure date from the UK. Fortunately, I have a sophisticated burglar alarm and friendly neighbours who are policemen.

    Finally, heartfelt thanks to everyone, especially to the Doc and Trevor, for putting me right.

  13. #13
    Goon
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    And having poked about a bit - from the ESTA fact sheet(pdf)

    "I have seen other Web sites offer to apply on my behalf
    for a fee. Will this help me receive my authorization more
    quickly?

    No. The United States Government does not charge a fee
    to obtain information about, apply for, or obtain a travel
    authorization through the ESTA Web site. VWP travelers
    should be aware that unauthorized third-parties have
    established Web sites that charge a fee to provide information
    about ESTA and to submit ESTA applications on behalf of the
    VWP traveler. These businesses and Web sites are not endorsed
    by, associated with, or affiliated in any way with DHS or
    the United States Government. Use of a private service to
    apply for travel authorization via ESTA will not expedite the
    granting of approval.

  14. #14
    Initiate craigp's Avatar
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    Looks like Visas are his specialty...

    Australian Visas

  15. #15
    Initiate craigp's Avatar
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    Hugh. I did a little Googling of his name and address and found his wife is listed as a justice of the peace, so they're likely to be reasonably honest and a legit business, if not a slightly immoral one IMO. I think you've done the right thing about your credit card though - better to be safe than sorry.

  16. #16
    ‹bermensch
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh Westacott View Post
    If you Google the United States Embassy to apply for an on-line authorization (ESTA) to visit the US under the Visa Waiver Program, you should be aware of a number of websites that offer to get your document for a fee, typically $49.99. They look official but are unauthorized agencies with no connection to the US Government.

    The official US Government site is here. The on-line form is easy to complete and, providing everything is in order, you will get your document within twenty-four hours. The cost is a mere £8.00.
    <blockquote class="quoteheader">Two other points worth mentioning.</blockquote><blockquote class="quoteheader"></blockquote><blockquote class="quoteheader">The ESTA does not provide authorization to visit the USA. It provides authorisation to fly to the USA and seek permission to visit. Hence in theory is of more use to airlines than USA immigration. Unfortunately airlines do not have access to the system (yet) . !!!!!!</blockquote><blockquote class="quoteheader">There is no such thing as an ESTA document. All details are held on line. You will get a confirmation email but that is for your own personnel use.</blockquote>

  17. #17
    Ultra King Trevor D Gamble's Avatar
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    Great detective work there Doc and Craig! Well done looking that info all up! This thread too was notified in my email to the US Embassy this morning for their information and action; so maybe they could take blocking action to close that site and others like it down now!

  18. #18
    Ultra King Trevor D Gamble's Avatar
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    Hugh, don't worry there! As I say, your credit card company should be informed and will likely refund that money you've had debited as a victim unwittingly of a scam artist site online.

  19. #19
    Ultra King Trevor D Gamble's Avatar
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    If nothing else this thread here serves as a timely reminder for us all to be on our guard and to watch out, and to check around a good bit before we part with money online; even to seemingly innocuous legitimate seeming official looking sites. To that way of thinking you've done us all a favour indeed there Hugh, so please don't feel too bad at being caught out there by the scammers. Could have happened to any one of us, as these scammers are clever folks.

  20. #20
    ‹bermensch
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    Hugh

    There's no need to check with the Embassy. Go onto the official site and look up your ESTA. If it is on the system it will be valid.

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