Just the word visa alone makes us shudder with an intense dislike for the bureaucracy, expense and hassle, which the process all too often entails. Despite the inconvenience, visas are unfortunately mandatory for travel to a huge number of destinations and annually thousands of UK passport holders are obliged to endure the tedious process of getting one.
Applying for a visa is usually done independently by paying for special delivery and posting off a wodge of paperwork and your passport along with the visa fee. Alternatively those who want to keep their passport in sight can make a trip to the embassy. The devastating reality is that even then the embassy is under no obligation to issue you a visa, and will not refund your payment regardless.
The answer to your troubles may be in the shape of 'The Visa Machine'. The new service takes away the aggravation of passing your documents to and fro while you're told that your paperwork does not match requirements or that a staple was in the wrong place.
In a nutshell
It's very simple: all you have to do is choose which visa you require and the 'machine' does the rest. It takes the paperwork off your hands and relays with the embassy on your behalf before returning your passport, visa stamp inside.
The Visa Machine website is not hugely creative, but is easy to navigate. Information is presented clearly and is interspersed with quirky anecdotes to lighten the gruelling procedure. The tabs at the top of the page do what they say on the tin; each one guides you to a different page be it 'How does it work', 'Pricing' or 'Contact us'. To proceed with your application you need to first create an account via the 'My visa' facility.
The priceless benefit of using the facility rests on the fact you will be given step-by-step guidance when filling in the forms, which are invariably complicated and pedantic. The Visa Machine, being something of a visa specialist, knows just what embassies are looking for and how they expect your details to be presented in the forms. Likewise, those working behind the scenes of the Visa Machine are experts when it comes to negotiating with embassies and completing any surplus correspondence. Another bonus: once you send your passport and paperwork to the Visa Machine, you can track the whereabouts of your passport and the progress of your application at any time simply by logging into your Visa Machine account.
As with any service, the Visa Machine comes at a cost. This fluctuates according to the type and number of visas you are applying for and often will be higher than if you were to apply independently. For a visa to India for example, expect to pay £42.20 for the visa and an extra £24.50 for the machine's services. The main inconvenience is that it is difficult to tell how much you would save by applying unaided; the website is rather elusive in terms of charges until you have begun the application process. That said, the Visa Machine staff promise to 'research visas carefully to get the best value for money' and 'negotiate the best prices'. Unfortunately there is no magic wand involved; the Visa Machine is not a guarantee that your application will be successful or correctly processed, which is all explained in the 'legal stuff' section on the website. It does however increase the chance of a smooth process and significantly alleviates your stress, especially if you are applying for a visa for the first time.