Before you read this VisaCenter review, just know that I am not affiliated with this company at all. This article is simply journaling my personal experience with using their services to get a travel visa.
Why I decided to book with a third party inside of applying directly to the embassy
For my upcoming vacation, I redeemed my Aeroplan miles and booked an Aeroplan mini-RTW trip. I decided to use Rwanda as one of my stopovers because Rwanda borders four other African countries: Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, and Democratic Republic of Congo. In my trip specifically, I wanted to visit Uganda, Burundi, and Democratic Republic of Congo. (I’ll save Tanzania for another vacation)
Getting the VISA for Uganda was easy enough. I simply applied online and got approved a few days later. Democratic Republic of Congo was also surprisingly simple. I signed up for a trek up the Nyiragongo volcano through the Virunga National park. Three weeks later, my VISA application was approved (I just need to pay them when we arrive in DRC).
However, the VISA to Burundi, was relatively confusing to get. After reading some horror stories online of VISAS taking up to 60 days to get approved and the embassy in Canada being rather unresponsive, I decided not to take the risk of applying directly at the embassy.
How I ended up applying for my Burundi Visa with VisaCenter
After doing a google search online, I found two companies that can process your travel visa for you locally. The two companies are VisaHQ and VisaCenter. At first, I was planning to go with VisaHQ since they’re more popular. Unfortunately, their website says that getting the Burundi Visa can take up to 60 days. Because I didn’t have 60 days to spare, I decided to look elsewhere.
That’s when I stumbled on the VisaCenter website. After reading the VisaCenter’s information on Burundi, they claimed to have a 13 days turn around. “Perfect!”, I said to myself. I then gathered all the necessary paperworks and documents ready to be dropped off at the VisaCenter office in Vancouver.
My experience applying for the Burundi Visa with VisaCenter
Before I went to the VisaCenter office to drop off my documents, I first made a phone call to their company. I wanted to inquire how the process would go. However, the phone call was very rushed. It felt like the lady on the phone just wanted to get rid of me as fast as possible.
Regardless, I still went to the VisaCenter office and dropped off my documents on April 12, 2019. The office had about three groups of people waiting for their turn to get their Visa processed. I think the company is severely understaffed because there’s only one lady helping these three groups of people. No wonder she’s so flustered when I called in.
Even when she helped me, it was really rushed, again, I understand because she’s dealing with so many people at once. But this is not a good reflection of the company’s service. I dropped off the documents to her and she said I shouldn’t have any problem getting approved.
Follow up calls and emails
On April 23, 2019, they emailed me and said I was missing my document showing my “flight” into Burundi. I was shocked because I wasn’t missing that specific document at all! In fact, I submitted it as part of my document package when I dropped it off at their office. To make matters worst, I paid FlightbookingforVisa.com $37.98 USD ($52.02 CAD) for my “flight and hotel” booking which is very expensive. I don’t know what happened but VisaCenter seems to have either lost my documents or the Burundi embassy rejected it
I ended up calling them right away asking what happened. VisaCenter then told me I need to send them another proof of how I plan on flying into Burundi. I told them that I was planning on entering Burundi by land from Rwanda. VisaCenter tells me it’s fine and I can send them my Aeroplan itinerary.
So, I sent VisaCenter my Aeroplan itinerary and they accepted it. I was so choked because I could have saved the $52.02 CAD that I paid for the “flight and hotel” booking. The reason I paid for the “flight and hotel” booking through FlightbookingforVisa.com is because I thought I needed proof that I am flying into Burundi! My Aeroplan itinerary only shows I am flying to Rwanda. Turns out entering Burundi through a land border is also okay so having a proof of flying to its neighbouring country is acceptable.
More follow up and receiving my Burundi Visa
By May 5, 2019, I still haven’t heard from VisaCenter whether they got my passport back yet or not. I was feeling a bit paranoid at this point because my flight date is coming up. So, I emailed the company asking for my Visa status.
By May 6, 2019, they emailed me back saying they will talk to the embassy to see what happened.
Finally, on May 7, 2019 they emailed me and told me that my passport has arrived in their office ready for pickup.
On May 8, I went to the VisaCenter office and picked up my passport. The lady who was helping me wasn’t as busy on that day and was more friendly than our first encounter.
Getting the VISA to Burundi wasn’t cheap. I ended up paying $222.48 to VisaCenter to get the Visa processed. The price includes:
- Getting a photo taken for the visa application on their office
- Registration with the Consulate of Canada in Bujumbura, Burundi
The “onward” flight ticket costed me $52.02 CAD ($37.98 USD).
In total, getting the Burundi Visa is a massively expensive $274.50 CAD! I could have bought a Nintendo Switch with that money! Collecting countries is damn expensive sometimes! (No regrets though, I love the challenge of pursuing the goal to visit all 193 UN recognized countries)
As you can already see, VisaCenter’s promise of a 13 day turnaround for the Burundi Visa was not fullfilled. It actually took the company 25 days to get my Visa to Burundi.
The good part is that VisaCenter still managed to get my a Visa to Burundi so that part went well.
Will I use VisaCenter again?
At this point, I’m not sure. What I plan on doing the next time I need to get a difficult VISA is to apply through VisaHQ. And depending on my experience with VisaHQ, I’ll use that to determine if I’ll get any Visas processed by VisaCenter again in the future.