Engineering a space shuttle sometimes seems simpler than applying for visas. Between filling out dozens of forms, attaching a recommendation letter, and standing in a long customer-service line at the grocery store to get a money order, you’ve lost a day of your life. Minimum. Then you mail your passport to a foreign country and wait by the mailbox to someday get it back. God forbid you forgot to put your address in box 12 on page eight; your dream trip could be ruined.
In 2018, it should not be this complicated.
One Miami-based company is trying to do something about it. A tech startup devoted to simplifying the visa and passport application process, govWorks has developed a system to help you complete all that paperwork online and, for a fee, get that visa in 24 hours. It’ll do the same thing if you need a new passport or passport renewal at the last minute, with a streamlined, simple process that takes all the government inefficiency out of international travel.
So how does this all work?
Let’s say you thought it might be fun to visit Pakistan for a few weeks. Beautiful country, good on you for overlooking the stereotypes. You’ll head to TravelVisa.com and type Pakistan into the box asking for your desired destination, then enter your dates of travel, the type of visa you want (tourist in this case, but you can do this for almost any type of visa), and some personal information like your name and address.
Next, you’ll pay. Why are you paying before you’ve actually filled out any virtual paperwork? Because imagine you spend half an hour filling out forms only to realize your credit card is maxed out from that plane ticket to Pakistan, and now you’ve got to start all over. Kinda defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
After your payment is accepted, you’ll fill out whatever forms (in digital format) the country requires, plus attach any letters of invitation, pictures, or other required documents. Govworks won’t let you complete the application until everything is filled out correctly, so there’s no risk of submitting this whole, complicated application and having it returned because you missed a checkbox.
For countries with eVisas, such as Australia, you’ll get your visa in as little as three minutes. For countries who don’t make it that simple — such as Pakistan — you can have it done in as few as 24 hours or as much as a week depending on how much you want to pay.
From there, govWorks sends the application to someone in its vast network of couriers in cities where your country has a consulate or embassy. Said courier drops your stuff off, has some lunch, then returns when it’s ready before sending it back to govWorks, which then sends it back to you. You’re updated the whole time on the progress of your application via push notification, like FedEx tracking with a little more immediacy.
If you’re not sure what kind of visa your destination requires, or if you need one at all, govWorks has a handy reference center right here. The cost will vary considerably by country and how fast you want your visa, but assume at least a few hundred dollars for standard service anywhere.
What about renewing and applying for passports?
This is also simple. More simple, perhaps, than the visa application process. First, you’ll go to either PassportCenter.com and select either a new or renewed passport. Once there, you’ll print and fill out your passport application, include any photos you need, and send it to govWorks using a pre-printed FedEx label.
From there, it works about the same. Govworks’ courier drops your stuff off with the State Department, picks it up, and sends it back to you when you’re done. Prices range from $99 for a renewal in 11-14 business days (still considerably shorter than the started 6-8 weeks) to $499 for 24-hour service. Renewals can even be done from overseas, though if you lose your passport you’ll still need to go to the nearest consulate or embassy for security reasons.
New passports are priced similarly with a base rate of $149 for eight to 10 business day service.
An old idea finally finds its time.
If you think govWorks sounds familiar, there’s a reason: the company was featured in the film “Startup.com” for burning through $60 million in venture capital money in three years back in the heyday of the dotcom bubble. But times have changed, and cheap flights have Americans traveling overseas in record numbers, so the idea has finally found its niche and seems to be doing well.
According to the company, govWorks has processed over 14,000 orders so far this year, generating $1.2 million in revenue in June alone. Whether or not that’s ultimately profitable remains to be seen. But if all you’re looking for is a simpler way to punch your ticket to Pakistan, then you don’t really need to concern yourself with startup valuation.
That said, govWorks is a private company and isn’t affiliated with any government agency, which may well be why it has been able to single-handedly bring the visa and passport application process into the 21st century. It’ll cost a little money, but any convenience in life is going to. And if you’re not a fan of paperwork or waiting a long time for anything, this is the travel godsend you’ve been looking for.
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