Misleading Advertising: Several websites headed “ESTA VISAS” break the UK advertising rules for not making sufficiently clear they are not the official website for US ESTA visa waiver applications.
Watch out for the following websites:
The CAP Compliance team has been taking market-wide action about the advertising of official services or documents on websites that are not the official government channel, including websites for visa services.
According to the official US government website, all eligible international travellers who wish to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must apply online for authorisation. ESTAs cost $14 through the official US government website https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/.
The above websites include a disclaimer in the footer of the homepage that states: “This is a commercial website, we are not affiliated with the government. To apply ESTA to USA through USA Embassies, you will be charged a fee. To book a landing ESTA visa under our process, we will charge a service fee for providing consultancy, submitting applications and informing the status and results.”
Amongst other requirements, websites that offer official services or documents but are not the official channel should make clear their unofficial status by including a prominent disclaimer alongside calls to action, which should allow consumers to understand the non-official nature of the service and the additional cost of using that service compared to using the official service directly.
Although there is disclaimer text on the websites, it is hidden in the footer; far removed from the prominent “Apply Now” action buttons at the top of the websites above the fold. In the absence of a full and prominent disclaimer alongside the calls to action, the websites breach the CAP Code.
The CAP Compliance team contacted the websites but they have not changed the presentation of the sites to comply with the Code. Because of their continued non-compliance, we took the decision to place their details on this section of the ASA website on 25 August 2017. These details shall remain in place until such time as the websites have been appropriately amended to ensure compliance with the CAP Code.
More information about “copycat” websites
The ASA has previously published information about “copycat” websites, including advice for consumers. You can see this information here: