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.
Some countries, such as Japan and Mongolia, have individual 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.
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.
|Visa Requirements for India|
|Visa Type||How Long Is It Valid?||Required Documents||Application Fees|
|Tourist Visa||Up to 10 years, for stays of 180 days or less||Travel itinerary||$150, plus $19.90 processing fee|
|Entry (X) Visa||Six months, or more with a valid extension||Proof of accommodation through lease or hotel reservation||$100 or more, depending on validity|
|Employment Visa||Up to five years||Copy of employment contract||$120 or more, depending on validity|
|Intern (I) Visa||Up to one year, or the duration of the internship||Letter from company sponsoring internship, proof of financial support||$100|
|Business Visa||One year, or 10 years||A letter from organization that they intend to do business with||$160 for 12 months, $270 for multi-entry|
|Student Visa||Five years, or the duration of the course||Letter of acceptance that also confirms financial arrangements||$100|
|Conference Visa||Three months||Copy of conference invitation, MHA event clearance letter, MEA political clearance letter||$100|
|Journalist Visa||Three months||Media accreditation card or a document from their organization describing clearly the nature of their work||$100|
|Research Visa||One year||Evidence of the research project, including details of places to be visited, proof of financial resources||$140|
|Medical Visa||One year, or the duration of the treatment||A certificate of medical advice from the country of residence, proof of financial resources||$100, depending on validity|
|Transit Visa||Fifteen days, for stays of 72 hours or less||A confirmed airline booking showing onward travel||$40|
Tourist visas are issued to people who want to come to India to visit people and go sightseeing or attend a short-term yoga program. Although tourist visas can be granted for more than six months, it's not possible to remain in India for longer than six months at a time on a tourist visa. In late 2009, India introduced new rules to curb the misuse of tourist visas in India (people who were living in India on Tourist visas and doing quick runs to a neighboring country and back every six months). Specifically, a two-month gap was required between visits to India. This requirement was finally removed in late Nov. 2012. However, some exceptions do remain.
India now has a popular electronic visa (e-Visa) scheme in place for citizens of most countries. Under this scheme, visitors can easily apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization online, and then get a visa stamp for entry into the country upon arrival. E-Tourist visas of one-month, one-year, and five-year validity are now available. The scope of visas under the program has also been widened to include short-term medical treatment and yoga courses, and casual business visits and conferences. Previously, these required separate medical/student/business visas. Tourists visiting India on a cruise ship can get an e-Visa as well.
Visa Fees and Applications
Tourist visa fees vary between countries, according to the arrangement between governments. The current price for U.S. citizens is $150 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.
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 2-inch square photo), 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.
Even if you have a valid Tourist visa, some remote areas in India 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.
Entry (X) Visa
An X-visa used to be issued to people who didn't fall into any of the other categories of visa applicants (such as volunteers). However, as of mid-2010, an X-visa is only available to the following people:
- A foreigner of Indian origin.
- Spouse and children of a foreigner of Indian origin or Indian citizen.
- Spouse and dependent children of a foreigner coming to India on any other long term visa, such as an Employment visa or Business visa.
- Foreigners who are joining specified ashrams or spiritual communities, such as Auroville, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Missions of Charities in Kolkata, or certain Buddhist monasteries.
- Foreigners who are participating in professional international sporting events.
It's not possible to work in India on an X-visa. However, X-visas can be extended in India, and there's no need to leave every six months. If you do stay for longer than six months at a time, you'll need to register at with Foreigners Regional Registration Office.
Employment visas are issued to foreigners who are working in India, for an organization registered in India. Foreigners doing long-term volunteer work in India are now granted employment visas (as opposed to X-visas previously). Special Project visas are issued to highly skilled foreigners coming to India to work in the power and steel sectors. Employment visas are usually for one year or the term of the contract. They can be extended in India.
To apply for an Employment visa, you'll need proof of employment with a company/organization in India, such as a contract that states the terms and conditions. From April 1, 2017, the rule that stipulates applicants must be earning 16.25 lakh rupees (about $23,000) a year or more has been lowered to allow for foreigners to teach in Central Higher Educational Institutes. Other exceptions are made for volunteers, ethnic cooks, translators, non-English language teachers, and members of Foreign High Commissions and Embassies.
Intern (I) Visa
Before April 1, 2017, it was necessary for foreigners pursuing an internship in an Indian organization to obtain an Employment visa. However, foreigners who meet certain conditions can now get an Intern visa. The gap between the completion of graduation or post-graduation and the commencement of the internship should not exceed one year. The validity of the Intern visa is restricted to the duration of the internship program or one year, whichever is less. It can't be converted into an Employment visa (or any other type of visa). There are a limited number of intern visas available, so be sure to apply promptly if you know your desired internship.
Business visas are available for people to explore business opportunities or conduct business in India. This type of visa differs from an Employment visa in that the applicant won't be working for and earning an income from an organization in India. Business visa applicants will require a letter from the organization that they intend to do business with, stating the nature of the business, duration of stay, places to be visited, and intention to meet expenses.
Business visas are valid for up to five or 10 years, with multiple entries. However, holders usually aren't allowed to remain in India for more than 180 days at a time, unless they register with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO).
Student visas are granted to people who wish to come to India and study long-term at an officially recognized educational institution. This includes the study of yoga, Vedic culture, and Indian system of dance and music. The main document required is student admission/registration papers from the institution. Student visas are issued for up to five years, depending on the duration of the course. They can also be extended in India.
In regards to yoga, the term "Yoga visa" is often mentioned. However, it's a Student visa that's provided to study yoga. Most of the well-known yoga centers in India will require those who study with them to obtain a yoga Student visa. A tourist visa is not sufficient for long-term studies.
Conference visas are issued to delegates who want to attend a conference in India that's offered by an Indian government organization. Those who are attending a meeting with a private organization in India should apply for a Business visa.
If you're a professional journalist or photographer, you should apply for a Journalist visa. The main benefit of a Journalist visa is if you want access to a particular region or person. A Journalist visa is issued for three months. However, these visas can be notoriously tricky to get, so only apply if you need to.
If a media company employs you, or if you list your occupation as journalist or photographer on your visa application, you'll likely be made to get a Journalist visa regardless of what you intend to do in India. India is very sensitive to people involved in the media (including editors and writers) coming to India, due to how they may portray the country.
Film (F) Visa
If you're planning on making a commercial film or TV show in India, you'll need to apply for a Film visa. The visa application is reviewed and processed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting within 60 days. It's valid for up to one year.
Anyone shooting a documentary film or advertisement must apply for a Journalist visa.
Research visas are issued to professors and scholars who wish to visit India for research-related purposes. This is another difficult category of visa to get. It's restrictive and comes with a lot of requirements. Applications are sent to the Department of Education. Ministry of Human Resource Development for approval, which may take three months to be granted. Many people choose to apply for a Tourist visa instead if they're conducting research informally and not going to be in India for more than six months.
Medical visas are provided to those seeking long-term medical treatment in India at recognized and specialized hospitals, and treatment centers. The treatment should be significant, such as neurosurgery, heart surgery, organ transplant, joint replacement, gene therapy, and plastic surgery. Up to two Medical Attendant visas will be issued for people to accompany the patient. If you're only undergoing short-term treatment of up to 60 days, you can apply for a e-Medical visa.
Visitors staying in India for less than 72 hours can obtain a Transit visa. Otherwise a Tourist visa is required. A confirmed airline booking for the onward journey must be shown when applying for the visa.
India's immigration policies tightened in late 2018, increasing the fines related to visa overstay. Those who overstay visas for 90 days are subject to a fine of $300, which increases accordingly based on the duration of the overstay. The Indian government can also take legal action against violators.
Extending Your Visa
In many cases, it's possible to extend your visa, but this must be done before it expires. Shorter-term visas, like the Indian e-Visa that most tourists hold, are not eligible for an extension. Those with visas valid for longer than 180 days may extend their visas, provided they register for an extension at least 60 days before the visa's expiry.