Note: the Indian government abolished the two-month gap rule on Indian tourist visas in late November 2012 (except for citizens of Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, and Bangladesh).
Indian Tourist Visas: The Previous Situation
The following information explains the two-month gap, when it was in operation.
In order to prevent people from going on visa runs and staying in India continuously on a Tourist Visa, the Indian government introduced a mandatory two-month gap between visits to India. It doesn't have to spell disaster for your vacation though. If you have a genuine reason for needing to return to India within two months on a Tourist Visa, there are a couple of options.
- Apply for a Re-Entry Permit: If you have an urgent need to return to India within two months, you can apply for a re-entry permit (stamp in your passport). This can be done at any Indian visa processing center (or directly at the Indian consulate if allowed). What's classed as an urgent need to return to India is subjective. All applications are assessed on a case by case basis, and depending on the documentation provided. There have been many cases where people have been granted re-entry permits in non-emergency situations, so it's worth applying. Anyone who does re-enter under these circumstances must register at a Foreigner's Regional Registration Office in India within 14 days of entry.
- Tourism to Neighboring Countries: If you take a side trip to a neighboring country such as Nepal, Thailand, or Sri Lanka, and you can support it with a detailed printed itinerary and return flight home from India, you can re-enter India within two months. Immigration officers have the discretion to allow tourists up to three entries, based on need, without a re-entry permit for this kind of travel. If you submit your itinerary when you apply for your visa, you may even get a stamp on your visa waiving the rule. This depends on where you apply though. It's most common in the UK.
Indian Tourist Visas: The Current Situation
The Indian government has greatly simplified its Tourist Visa regime in recent years to make getting a visa easier and encourage more people to visit the country. If you don't need a visa for longer than a year, it's now possible to get an e-Visa online. These visas are valid for a year and provide multiple entries into India -- so you can come and go as many times as necessary. It's very convenient. Do keep in mind that it's not possible to remain in India continuously for the whole year though.
The length of stay mustn't be longer than 90 days unless you're a citizen of the US, UK, Japan and Canada. Citizens of these countries can stay in India for up to 180 days at a time. Indian e-Visas are available to citizens of most countries, with the fee varying depending on the reciprocal relationship between India and each country. It's $100 for US citizens. You can apply for an e-Visa as often as you want -- there's no limit.
Alternatively, you can apply for a standard Tourist Visa for India.