Obtaining a Visa for India

What You Need to Know and How to Apply

India visa.
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All visitors need a visa for India, except citizens of neighboring Nepal and Bhutan. The Indian government has now introduced one-month, one-year, and five-year electronic visas for citizens of most countries. The e-visas are available for tourism, business, medical, and conference purposes.

Nowadays, an e-Visa will be sufficient for most visitors, thereby removing the need to obtain a regular visa before arriving in India. However, citizens of the United States can get a regular Tourist visa that's valid for up to 10 years. Some people may also require a type of visa that's not offered as an e-Visa.

Here's what you need to know to prepare your India visa application.

What Type of Visa is Required for India

Visitors staying in India for less than 72 hours can obtain a Transit visa (a confirmed airline booking for the onward journey must be shown when applying), otherwise a Tourist visa is necessary.

The length of the Tourist visa will depend on your nationality.

Citizens of the United States, Canada and Japan are given Tourist visas of up to 10 years validity. Five-year Tourist visas are increasingly becoming available for people from most countries, where biometric enrollment facilities are available. Otherwise, Tourist visas are generally issued for three or six months, or one year. The visas are usually multiple entry visas. 

Do be aware that the visa is valid from the date of issue, NOT the date of arrival in India.

In addition, no matter how long your Tourist visa is valid for, you're not permitted to remain in India for more than six months (180 days) at a time. Furthermore, some Tourist visas only allow stays of up to three months at a time. Also note that although a two month gap previously applied between visits to India on Tourist visas, this has been removed for citizens of most countries.

Other types of visas that are available for visitors to India include Business visas, Employment visas, Intern visas, Research visas, Student visas, Journalist visas, and Film visas.

How Much Does an Indian Tourist Visa Cost?

Tourist visa fees vary between countries, according to the arrangement between governments. The current fee for US citizens is $160 for up to 10 years. Processing is additional and costs $19.90. There are also other incidental costs such as a Biometric Enrollment fee, although these are not significant in amount. When compared to the new reduced cost of getting an e-Tourist visa -- $80 for five years -- there's no real financial benefit of obtaining a regular paper visa.

Some countries, such as Japan and Mongolia have special agreements with India that allow their citizens to pay significantly less for a visa. Citizens of Argentina, Cook Islands, Fiji, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Myanmar, Nauru, Niue Island, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Uruguay and Vanuatu do not have to pay a visa fee.

How and Where to Apply for a Regular Indian Visa

If you're not applying for an e-Visa, it's now possible to apply for a regular paper visa online. The Indian government has introduced a centralized online application process whereby you can complete and submit the form online, and then manually submit your passport and supporting documents in person to the relevant Indian Mission (Indian consulate or embassy) in your country.

Alternatively, you can still go through a visa processing center if you can't appear at an Indian consulate in person. You'll need to complete your application form online, on the agency's website, and then mail in your application and required documents.

In the United States, Indian visa applications are handled by Cox and Kings Global Services. In Australia and the UK, it's VFS Global. In Canada, BLS International handles visa applications.

Along with your application and fee, for an Indian Tourist visa you'll need a passport that's valid for a least six months and has at least two blank pages, a recent passport-sized photo (check the requirements as it changes, the current requirement is a square photo 2 inch x 2 inch), and details of your itinerary. Copies of flight tickets and proof of residential address may also be required. Your visa application form may have the space for Indian referees, but this section usually isn't necessary to be completed for Tourist visas.

How Long Will It Take to Get the Visa?

The Tourist visa processing time for US citizens born in the US is generally five to 10 business days. 

Permits for Protected/Restricted Areas in India

Even if you have a valid Tourist visa, there are some remote areas in India that require foreigners to obtain a Protected Area Permit (PAP) to enter them. These areas are usually near borders, or have other security concerns associated with them.

Such areas include Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and some parts of northern Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand, In many cases, individual tourists are not allowed, only tour/trekking groups.

You can apply for your PAP at the same time as you apply for your Tourist visa. Alternatively, it's also possible to obtain it while in India before going to the protected area.

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