While it’s essential to choose an immigration agency that handles visa and passport applications both professionally and efficiently, with so many options out there it can be difficult knowing which you can trust.
Here are 10 tips to help you choose the reputable consultancy that best suits your needs.
1. Just Ask
Ryan Rennison, managing director of UK visa solutions experts Move Up, says your first port of call is to ask friends and family about their personal experiences. “Social media is an amazing tool for polling your networks for their recommendations of which companies do a good job – with a smile – and those you should steer clear of. Chances are if your neighbour, cousin or colleague had a positive experience with an immigration expert, you’ll have one too,” he says.
2. Google Reviews
As marketers will tell you, nothing beats word of mouth when it comes to endorsements – and criticisms. When you’re doing online research, make sure you read online reviews of your prospective immigration agency for first-hand unfiltered opinions from people in the know.
3. Social Media
Take a look at your prospective immigration agency’s social media platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) to check whether they are up to date. An inactive, empty or missing page may be a sign that the company is ‘fronting’ and not to be trusted.
4. Lawyer or Agency
Avoid unnecessary costs by finding out exactly which services you require. Immigration lawyers are best suited to complex immigration cases and often charge higher fees, while a straightforward visa or passport application can easily be managed by a reputable and experienced immigration consultancy. If you’re exploring moving to the UK, try this free birth certificate evaluation to see if you qualify for an ancestral visa or British passport.
5. Get Quotes
Make sure you compare immigration consultants’ fee structures to get an idea of the range of pricing out there. While some agencies are not upfront about how much of what you pay will be going straight into their pockets, there are agencies that freely publish their fees on their websites.
On the flip side, remember that too-good-to-be-true fees are usually just that. While offers from less reputable agencies can have hidden Ts and Cs, some trustworthy companies like Move Up offer a solid fees-back guarantee: if your visa application is not successful, it promises to refund your fee in full.
6. Ancient History
Not always, but usually, the best immigration agencies have been around for many years. Look at the company’s track record to find out if the employees are experienced, if the head of the organisation has a solid reputation and whether you can get in touch with the company easily if something goes wrong. Do not be shy to ask for contactable references if you are still unsure.
Good agencies will have policies and procedures in place that help give their customers peace of mind when it comes to handling and storing sensitive, personal information.
For secure online payments, make sure the website URL begins with ‘https’. The ‘s’ means the website is secure and will safely process any credit card transactions you initiate.
8. Governing Body
Unfortunately, the industry doesn’t yet have a governing body or regulator to assist consumers with avoiding rogue immigration agencies. Few governments have the capacity to regulate other countries’ immigration agencies, which means it’s up to you to assess your options.
9. Background Check
Relocating to a new country can sometimes involve paying hundreds of thousands of rands in fees to your future government. If you are nervous about parting with a large sum of cash, there are companies that offer background checks (on individuals and companies) for your peace of mind.
10. The Gut Test
Once you have gathered all the information you need, trusting your intuition is the final step forward.
The UK is a favourite destination for South Africans choosing to emigrate. Find out which UK visas you may be eligible for by completing this free online visa assessment from Move Up.