Until three years ago, I did my own visas. Got the forms, filled them out, and FedExed them with the passport to the appropriate consultant or embassy. I always had my fingers crossed as I sent the packet off, but the system worked. Until Bangladesh!
I had already obtained the necessary Indian visa and, per usual, I downloaded the Bangladesh forms, completed them and sent them with passport and payment to the address I found on the internet. Time passed. I finally telephoned and E-mailed the Bangladesh people. No one, nada, had any knowledge of my application and passport despite FedEx showing delivery. Which lead to my having to frantically hassle and get a new passport and visa forms which I FedExed, but not back to the Bangladesh embassy in Washington DC but, for a Sixty Dollar service fee, to an agency handling visas. Who. also for a price, processed my new request for Indian visas.
While the agency was handling all the visa requests, I received a E-mail from the Bangladesh people - they had found my now invalid passport with application forms and what did I want them to do with it. My unspoken response was pretty vile. My spoken response was for them to simply return everything.
Since, I have debated about going back to handling visas myself. It’s certainly easier to mange what with everything being computerized. And it is cheaper! But I have memories of Bangladesh. So I have surrendered to paying a goodly sum for a private agency to handle it for me. Which probably paid off on this trip. For without them, I would have gotten two visas I don’t need.
For recently, not only did I need a visa for Zimbabwe, but I needed pages added to my passport. I was afraid of sending the passport in to SF for pages what with all the overflow and delays at the US Passport Agency. So I sent everything in for the private agents to handle. In the meantime, I got a notice from the tour people: they required I have three other visas, South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, in advance of my trip. When I talked with both the passport agency and my travel advisor, I got a mixed message until the passport person E-mailed me info from US government posting on the countries concerned.
US citizens did not need visas for South Africa and Botswana and one could pick up the visa for Namibia at entry. Which saved me close to Two Hundred Bucks, as using the Passport agency isn’t cheap. However they really earned their money in researching requirements for me.
So, I will continue to use them. At least, I’m assured of getting the passport returned with a visa, even at a cost. Or not getting a visa as conditions require!