Mar 27, 2024

Wrong birth date voids visa an hour before a flight from Cambodia to Vietnam: WhatsApp to the rescue

Check visa details carefully

Private visa services used to be helpful for some types of international travel (China, for instance) when applications involved complicated paperwork and mailing away your passport. They charged a fee, of course, but it was worth it.

These services became less useful over the years as many countries began offering e-Visas online.  All many require is  an online application submitted along with a copy of your passport and a credit card payment.

Emergencies do come up, however. This is when a third-party visa service can come to your rescue, and for that, I am grateful.

My husband and I arrived at the airport in Phnom Penh for a flight to Hanoi recently with our Vietnamese e-Visas in hand. The  airline agent looked carefully at Tom's paperwork, then shook her head. "No, you can't fly," she told us. The birthdate on his visa was incorrect. During the processing, someone had typed 2023 instead of 1949. 

Obviously he wasn't born last year, so we pleaded our case to the agent who called Vietnamese immigration. They refused to budge. 

Our flight was leaving in 1.5 hours. "Is there anything we can do?

 "You could go the Vietnamese embassy but it's an hour away, and they close at 5 p.m.," was the response. 

We appealed to a manager who told use there are services that can issue new visas online in an hour through WhatsApp. While we were waiting, I Googled "emergency Vietnamese visa services," and found several that offered the service for a $350 fee. Our original visas cost $30 each.

The manager made a few calls, then connected us with a company called Vietnam Evisa Service which charged $130.

We gladly agreed to pay. Though WhatsApp, I sent a copy of my Tom's visa and passport. The agent on the other end took a look, and assured us they could arrange a corrected visa in time for us to make our flight A link was sent for a credit card payment - all in all a risky venture, but what choice did we have?

A few minutes alter, a pdf of the new visa with the correct birth date came into my e-mail inbox.  The agent on WhatsApp told me to check in for our flight, and let him know once we were on our way.

"We will arrange to take your name in front of the immigration counter at the Vietnam airport, and support your visa procedures," he promised.

We made it through Cambodian immigration and to our gate with 15 minutes to spare. When we arrived in Hanoi, a man holding a sign with my husband's name on it greeted us, and whisked us to the head of the immigration line. 

There an agent waived us through without even looking at Tom's new visa. 

 Lessons learned:

 *Always check every detail of your visa before leaving. I had checked our entry and departure dates, our passport numbers and our names, but didn't look at the birth dates.

*Get WhatsApp and register your details, so if you get in a jam, the person on the other end will have quick access to your QR code.

 *Know how to contact your credit card company quickly from overseas in case any service like this turns out to be a scam.

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