““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
Helping Hands for Travelers: A Shortcut to Needed Paperwork
Private companies can cut red tape to quickly deliver passports, visas and other travel documents.
Business travel would be exhausting enough without the added worry of getting your papers in order. Countries such as China, Brazil and India all now require visas and often demand additional documents, such as letters of intent or government invitations if you are planning on doing business. Last-minute travel can be especially complicated, as can trips with a group or to multiple countries.
Expediting services can assist with the entire paperwork process. They’ll know what documents you need—and how to get them much faster than you could on your own.
One such service, G3 Visas and Passports, has offices in eight major American cities and can process passports and many visas in 24 hours. The company counts Jet Aviation, NetJets and GE’s in-house flight department among its clients. Mohammed Jashim, senior director at G3, recommends starting the paperwork process two months in advance for an international trip—particularly if your itinerary includes multiple countries—but understands that this is often not possible. “We are here to make your life easier,” he says.
Longstanding relationships with the U.S. State Department and international consulates help Texas-based A1 Passport and Visa to provide similarly quick service. “We love procrastinators, because we know how to help them,” says A1 founder and CEO Omar Saleem. His business, which often processes passports in less than eight hours, lists the National Business Aviation Association, HP and the flight department at Texas Instruments as regular clients. A1 will travel to the offices of large corporate clients like these and process passport renewals for employees on-site.
Most expediting service companies charge about the same rates, ranging anywhere from approximately $39 to $350 per document, depending on how quickly you need service and how complicated your trip is.
One advantage of using an expediting service is that it will lead you through the complex web that is international travel. Both G3 and A1 will figure out exactly what you need to legally enter a country—the requirements can vary significantly—and then help smooth your path. For example, Americans are typically not free to travel to Cuba because of continued diplomatic strains, but, says Jashim, G3 once “helped a few elite clients who were going to visit Castro. We took the documents directly to the embassies to get the visas, and [the matter] was handled legally through the two governments.”
Both G3 and A1 have sections on their websites that report on embassy closures, changes in visa requirements and other breaking news. They will also advise on political climates worldwide and help to cut through rumors. For instance, contrary to popular belief, the United Arab Emirates will no longer turn away travelers whose passports have a stamp indicating prior travel to Israel, but certain other Middle Eastern countries may still do so.
“We will often make recommendations to clients based on what we see in their current passport [regarding previous travel],” says Saleem, who notes that the U.S. Department of State allows Americans to apply for a second “limited” passport (valid for only two years as opposed to the usual 10) that can be used to avoid these sorts of conflicts as well as in situations such as visa delays.
Obviously, when a third-party expedites your travel documents, you need to consider the security of your information. A1 shreds all papers containing critical data such as Social Security numbers as soon as it finishes with them, retaining only basic information such as passport expiration dates and email addresses, so it can send reminders about renewals. G3 also follows strict security procedures, which involve shredding some documents and keeping others in locked storage.
Jennifer Leach English welcomes comments and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.