My India visa was the first supplementary entry visa I ever had to procure. I’d only traveled to European countries up that point, none of which require anything but a passport from American tourists. Two years and literally dozens of visas later, I can safely say the process of getting an Indian visa is one of the most straightforward I’ve completed.
Whether you travel to India to see the Taj Mahal in Agra, hit the beach in Goa, explore the desert sands of Rajasthan or learn about Indian history in the capital city of Delhi, obtain an India visa at an Indian embassy or consulate in your home country or in any foreign city you visit prior to India that has an Indian embassy or consulate.
India Visa Types
The good news for the rest of us is that even the six-month India visa for tourists, which costs $76 as of July 2011 ($63 consular fee plus $13 service fee), allows you to enter India multiple times over the course of its validity. It’s important to note, however, that new immigration rules require you to wait at least two months after exiting India to re-enter.
If you decide to cross one of the country’s northeast borders with Nepal or Bhutan, for example, you might want to visit Tibet, Burma or Southeast Asia afterwards if you plan to re-visit India after your Himalayan adventure, but don’t think it will occupy a full two months.
Travisa Outsourcing for Indian Visas
If you’re an American bound for India and haven’t yet left the states, applying for an India visa is incredibly simple since the government of India has outsourced processing of Indian visa applications for U.S. citizens to a company called “Travisa.” No matter where in the country you live, you can mail your application to one of Travisa’s five offices, which are located in Chicago, Houston, New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
Before you get started with the online application, make sure your passport has at least six months remaining validity and two consecutive, blank visa pages. Once you’ve done that, click here to begin the India visa application. After providing your email address, you’ll be prompted for personal information including your full name as it appears on your passport, your marital status, your permanent address and your phone number.
Once you input this initial set of information, you’re given an India visa application ID and password. Take note of these in case you need to exit the application and resume at a later date — you have seven days from when you begin to complete it. Additional information required includes your employer name and address, a list of places you plan to visit in India as well as an 80-word “objective” for your trip. As much whimsy as this last bit invites, be as to-the-point as possible when filling it in.
The India visa application further prompts you for an estimated departure date from the U.S., your port of arrival in India and a reference in India who can verify your journey. Provide the address of the Indian ticketing office for the airline you plan to fly in this space.
Select a payment option as well as a return shipping option if you don’t plan to pick your password up in person once the India visa has been affixed into it. Strangely, Travisa prefers that you send a money order for the amount of the transaction, although you may use a Visa or MasterCard if you so choose.
Once you submit the last of your information, the Travisa website generates a PDF of your India visa application. Print it out and a place it into an envelope with two passport-sized photos (you can have these taken at Walgreens), your money order (if you haven’t chosen to pay via credit card), a photocopy of your photo ID confirming an address in the United States and your passport — and yes, your actual passport. Don’t worry, it will be fine. Send the package off to the address listed on the India visa application or deliver it in person.
If you apply by mail, you can expect to have your passport (with Indian visa affixed inside) within a week or so, while in-person applicants can sometimes receive their passports back the same day. Track your passport online to monitor the status of your India visa application.
Applying for an India Visa at Embassies and Consulates Abroad
If you’re not a citizen of the U.S. or are but are not currently in the U.S., you obviously can’t apply for an Indian visa using Travisa Outsourcing. Instead, you’ll need to visit the Indian embassy or consult nearest to you in-person and apply for the India visa there. Although you won’t be able to complete your India visa application in advance online, requirements for India visas and the information you need to provide are the same abroad as they are in the U.S.
Consult the list of Indian embassies and consulates abroad provided here and call your local branch prior to your visit to confirm the cost of your Indian visa, how long you can plan to wait for processing and when the best time to submit your India visa application is.