Visa Scams

So I’m a little worried about our thirty-day tourist visas. They may not be all they seem.

Let me explain.

Some months ago, I googled “Sri Lanka visas“ and then applied through the website that appeared first in the results. Everything worked competently enough. The website processed my payment and, two days later, emailed me two long strings of random alphanumerics that were apparently our electronic Travel Authority (eTA) numbers. I even queried something about one of them, and a strangely named individual, let’s call him Nicholas Trustworthy, emailed a reply.

All good, then? That’s what I thought. Then last week, organising paperwork, Norton decided to flag the website as unsafe. Furthermore, upon consulting TripAdvisor, I read there are hordes of dodgy websites selling bogus and/or unnecessarily expensive visas for everywhere. Even to New Zealand. And to really rub the ink in, Sri Lanka has now relaxed all charges for visas over the Christmas period to encourage tourism. We need not have paid at all!

Still, it’s validity that counts. Ten or twenty dollars over the odds isn’t so bad, but we don’t want to be refused admission, made to wait in a long queue of other poor suckers who’ve fallen for similar internet chicanery, worse bundled on the next plane home. Imagine that – flying for fourteen something hours only to be turned around and flown fourteen hours back. We’d feel like we were the stars of one of those Border Control TV shows: the unshaven man with suspicious sunglasses who mentions he is playing a gig yet lacks a work visa, or the blinking bride whose fiancé, despite promises, isn’t in arrivals, and refuses to answer his phone.

eTAs. These days you need them wherever you travel to. Australia, USA, New Zealand, and shortly post-Britpop Britain. They’re catching on, these all singing, all online Travel Authorities. Anywhere that is ANYWHERE requires one. Next you’ll need one for Auckland Bridge, Palmerston North Toll Road, even the Local Heroes bar on the Cook Strait ferry.

I wondered about applying for our Sri Lanka eTas again… only this time, after meticulous checking, on what is the official government immigration site. After all, eTAs are currently free. It won’t cost anything…

But the government site refused. Told me we already had visas. So perhaps we haven’t been duped at all, only paid too much. A timely lesson to keep our wits about us, and check everything – everything – twice.

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