In early 2019, Jackson and his friend Aaron booked a tour through Central America. A month before the trip Aaron and Jackson applied for the requisite visas for each country they were to travel through. Jackson received his visas very quickly. However, Aaron was declined a visa for the first country on the tour.
Aaron was told he could reapply for the visa with further information, and sent off the requisite paperwork, and his passport, to the High Commission. The process for reapplying was long, and Aaron and Jackson’s trip was scheduled to leave in a few weeks. Aaron requested urgency from the High Commission, however, they were unable to process the visa in time. Aaron requested that the High Commission return his passport, and investigated alternative flights that would allow him to fly into the second country of the tour, and participate in the rest of the tour with Jackson. Altering the trip would cost Aaron $1500.
The High Commission sent back Aaron’s passport. It arrived the day before he was scheduled to depart. The process of trying to get the visa, and waiting for the return of his passport caused Aaron a lot of stress and in the end, he chose not to fly in to the second country, and cancelled the trip altogether.
Aaron made a claim to his travel insurer for the cost of the cancelled trip. The travel insurer declined Aaron’s claim as it did not cover loss arising due to a customer’s failure to obtain the correct visa or passport.
Aaron complained to FSCL.
Aaron felt that it was unfair that he had been declined a visa by the first country, as he had read the visa requirements before he applied, and had believed that he would be able to get the visa within a week. Aaron felt that the High Commission was at fault in declining his visa, and for taking so long to assess his reapplication.
The travel insurer said that Aaron’s claim was excluded under the policy. Aaron was responsible for arranging his visas, and he had failed to obtain the correct visa in time for his tour, resulting in his loss. The travel insurer said that it was not responsible for the immigration rules and processes of another country.
We reviewed the complaint and found the insurer had correctly applied its policy. We appreciated that Aaron had not contemplated having to resubmit his visa application, or the time this would take, however, Aaron, still failed to obtain a visa in time for his travel. Aaron could have applied for the visa months earlier, before he booked the trip, but did not. There was a clear policy exclusion for claims arising out of a failure to have the correct visa required for travel.
We also found that Aaron did not need to cancel the entirety of his trip, and could still have enjoyed the tour from the second country onwards. We found that Aaron had voluntarily chosen to cancel his trip and this was also excluded under the policy.
We recommended that Aaron discontinue his complaint. Aaron did not respond to the recommendation, and we closed his complaint.
Insights for consumers
It is important to apply for visas as soon as possible when planning a trip to a country where a visa is required for entry. If there is anything wrong with your application, it may result in you having to resubmit your application, and it is your responsibility to have the correct visas in place before you travel. Your insurer will not cover you for cancelled trips due to your failure to obtain the correct visa or passport.