We meet the man behind Viselio, the firm which simplifies the visa application process and does the tedious form-filling for you.
Words by Cally Squires
Worse than missing a flight, is missing a whole trip because you didn’t realise you needed, or how long it would take to get, a visa.
It was this potential worst-case scenario that led Niklas Zeller to start Viselio four years ago.
The firm automates the visa application process and charges a service fee for doing so. It has a 99% success rate.
“I don’t come from a travel background,” says Niklas.
“I used to work in aircraft maintenance. But I got into this by chance when I had to apply for a Russian tourist visa and Serbian business visa.
“It was the first time in my life getting to grips with these paper-based government processes, which I had never experienced before.”
Zeller was ultimately successful in his visa quest. But the cost was “wasting literally two days” going to the relevant centres and getting the documentation.
Hardest visas for China and Russia
The firm currently operates for residents within seven European markets including the UK, France, Sweden and the Netherlands.
It covers visas for some 84 destinations globally.
Zeller says without a doubt China and Russia are the hardest visas to obtain.
“For China it’s a very, very long form that has to be filled, and you have to go and leave your documents and get an appointment to go in person and do a fingerprint.”
Viselio’s system helps by preparing the documentation for the traveller automatically.
Upon request, one of their employees will accompany the traveller to the visa centre too.
The company has a lot of business clients.
But it also works with tour operators doing group travel and cruises. They may have several thousand passengers stopping in China or India and all need visas.
Application processing times can be anything from two days to several weeks.
“The rule is normally the more you pay, the quicker it goes. But sometimes there are countries that are so strict there is nothing you can do to make it faster.”
Although it’s hard a hard process to expedite, Zeller advises writing a letter with a good reason why you need your visa quicker.
For people going it alone, are there common pitfalls to avoid?
“The most common mistake people make is not getting the photo right. It really has to show your whole face. You shouldn’t smile.
“The background needs to be white or grey depending on the destination and it has to be in the right format.”
“We’ve had a few people in the past get rejected because of something they did in the country on a previous visit, or because they had political ties.
“But generally, we can filter out all the cases where they wouldn’t get the visa in advance.
“For instance, if you’re a journalist and you want to travel to China, you will not get the visa issued just like that. You'll have to attend an interview at the very least.”
Brexit and visas
After Brexit, UK tourists will not need a visa for short trips to the EU and Schengen countries like Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Brits can stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.