MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN 2015/16
CASE IN POINT | VisaRequest
by Samantha Barnes
Ready for Lift-off
People being people, are not always patient when faced with a situation where they need their travel documents in a hurry. On the other hand, the customer is always right… Well, most of the time. Established in South Africa in 2007, VisaRequest has assisted more than 12 000 travellers in acquiring over 30 000 visas over the past seven years. The visa-acquisition company serves travel agents and private individuals.
Staff go the extra mile when required, but there are times when they need to set boundaries, for instance when someone is being, how should we put it, a tad bit unreasonable. The VisaRequest website bears a humorous tag, ‘Thou shalt respect processing days advised’, which implies that travellers need to respect the fact that the process of applying for a visa does not happen with the click of one’s fingers.
Cool and Composed in the Face of Traffic
Aamena Joosub has a job title with a mythical ring to it. As ‘overseer’ of all traffic in and out of VisaRequest, one expects her to be sporting a cloak out of Lord of the Rings. She cracks the whip around the office, is no-nonsense and always has a smile. She is composed, a character trait befitting her task of ensuring that travellers are provided with fast, hassle-free visas. “I bring joy and convenience to people across South Africa through efficiency and dedication to service quality,” says Aamena.
Toon Bellefroid is a visa consultant and, besides an unusual name, his claim to fame is specialising in Schengen states and other African countries. A Belgian national, he is another precise character, with a wealth of European travel, who is always seeking adventure. Madelein de Jager, also a visa consultant, specialises in the UK, Asia and Africa. She is blessed with a gentle, soft-spoken personality, and is eager to please and to deliver.
Edward Mampiye is best described as ‘the go-to guy’. He handles logistics and ensures that all applications are submitted and collected on time – by all means necessary – which is reassuring. He is a man of few words, but great action. The world could do with more such types!
If you need a problem solved, Vincent Mutezo in marketing is your man. He is known in the office as the problem solver – if there is a situation that has people running around like headless chickens, he calms the situation down.
At the helm is Jaco Badenhorst, managing director of VisaRequest. Jaco is respected as a great thinker, with a gift for getting things done. Els Badenhorst is finance manager and is attentive to details that count (literally). This means that costs are always under control, as she does not let a rand go unaccounted for.
lan Ahead and Honour the Process
Preferably, apply for a visa two months ahead of departure. This provides enough time to allow for possible uncertainties and keeps visa costs down, as everything can be processed normally. Always have copies of previous visas to a destination, for this helps decision making by embassies. A good travel history helps. Bank statements are usually required, especially for tourist visas. This shows that you have enough funds for the stay in the destination country and that you have an interest in returning home.
Clients are provided with timelines for visa applications. Important to remember is that, from the time an application leaves the VisaRequest offices for submission to embassies, VisaRequest has limited control over what happens to the application. Once the embassy has made its decision, VisaRequest collects and returns the visa to the client in the shortest possible time. Depending on the embassy, visas can take between 5 to 25 days to be processed. The cost of a visa varies between R1 000 and R3 000. Most embassies charge extra to expedite visas, and this may be double or triple the normal fees.
Making Your Life Simpler
VisaRequest offers the lowest processing fee in the industry, with R250 charged to a frequent corporate, R300 to once-off corporate clients or individuals, and R600 in the event of an emergency application. VisaRequest API offers a product that clients can put on their own websites. This enables them to have drop-downs, giving them easy access to visa information without leaving their own websites – just something else to ensure safe and happy travels!
No Tantrums Please
In extraordinary circumstances, VisaRequest may request that an embassy expedite a visa by releasing it a day early. Embassies have their own processing guidelines and policies that may not be compromised.
Going the extra mile is a daily exercise at VisaRequest. Problems are solved on a daily basis – like sorting out emergency business visas for a boss whose assistant forgot to send through the documents on time, or having to do airport deliveries for clients at night or on weekends. If, for some reason, you need to extend your stay, make sure that your passport is valid six months after the date of extension.
Visa Requests encourages travellers to always have travel insurance. Threats that used to be isolated to Europe or Asia are now global. VisaRequest issues updates according to prevailing situations. Travellers to Greece need to ensure that they have a healthy amount of cash as a measure to avoid the inconvenience of not being able to access their plastic money due to the economic crisis there.
When travelling in another country, the sights and sounds can be distracting. A friend of mine left a travel voucher hooked on the bathroom door, and consequently left the building and his passport behind. It happens!
To be on the safe side, make sure you have unabridged birth certificates of minors, take along copies of all travel documents, and have digital copies of all important documents so that you can easily access them from anywhere if you lose them (passport information and visa pages, flight and accommodation confirmations, and so on). Prescribed medication should be taken for all travellers. Keep each other’s contact numbers written down. Most importantly, take lots of pictures together, and have fun!
Travelling in Africa
The main countries in Africa that VisaRequest sees travel to are the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), Ghana, Ethiopia and Nigeria. This is mainly business travel, with consultants and engineers being the top travellers. For non-business purposes, VisaRequest is seeing an increase in travel related to religion. Whatever your reasons for travel, have a good trip!