Is visiting the Taj Mahal on your travel bucket list? It’s on mine and I’m excited to say I’m going there later this month. To enter India you are required to obtain a visa beforehand and the process can be confusing, if not frustrating if you wait till the last minute. The type of visa you have to obtain will depend on your intentions for visiting India as well as the duration. I am visiting purely to sight see so I had two visa options – the e-Tourist Visa (eTV) or traditional Tourist Visa.
This is where it can get confusing – which one should you apply for – aren’t they both for the purpose of tourism? Well, the truth is it really depends on how many times you plan on entering India, the time you would like to spend there, and the time you have to spend beforehand getting your visa (this will make more sense in a minute).
The traditional tourist visa is daunting and time consuming but honestly if you have the time to obtain this form of visa beforehand I recommend it especially if you plan on visiting more than once in the following 10 years. The eTV only allows for 1 entrance into India and once you enter is only valid for 30 days and will cost you $60. The tourist visa on the other hand allows for multiple entries and is valid for 10 years (pending approval by the consulate) and will cost you only $100 (a better bargain). I decided to go with the eTV primarily because of time constraints as the traditional tourist visa requires a scheduled interview with Cox and Kings Global Services and enough time to mail in your application to the consulate. I even submitted the application to see how long it would take and from what I could see no interview slots were open for at least 2 weeks and I had no time to waste! If you go with the traditional tourist visa you must also mail or drop off your passport as they attach a permanent page into your passport containing your visa.
The steps required to apply for the eTV are relatively easy, however, make sure you follow the instructions exactly. The $60 fee is nonrefundable for any reason and if you make any mistakes it’s on you. Literally, you will lose your $60 and have to pay an additional $60 to reapply. Not to mention you are only allowed to apply for an eTV twice in one year and after that you have to apply for the traditional tourist visa which is a 3 month long process.
- Step 1: Obtain a passport style picture. I recommend getting them done at Walgreens. It will cost you about $15 but they will be the exact size and color you need.
- Step 2: Fill out your online Indian eTV visa form here.
- Fill out all questions accurately and honestly. Don’t miss the check boxes – most of them default to yes when you probably want no!
- Dates are formatted Date/Month/Year – check to make sure you enter all dates correctly as this is different than the American standard.
- Step 3: Upload scanned passport style picture and first page of your passport.
- Make sure you follow all instructions including size and clarity. You can be denied if either of these uploaded pictures don’t fit the criteria or are illegible.
- Your passport must be valid for at least the following 6 months, must be signed, and the information must match your application identically.
- Step 4: Submit your application.
- Step 5: Pay the appropriate fees.
- You’ll be directly to a different payment page. The fee is $60 for the visa and I believe $1.50 for processing.
- Step 6: Wait for approval.
- They say you will obtain approval within 72 hours. I received mine in less than 24 hours so it’s very quick.
- They will email you with your eTV and the dates you are approved for to enter the country.
One common mistake is WHEN to apply for the eTV. You would think as early as you can would be the right answer but for this type of visa not necessarily! Once you submit your application, it is stamped with a date and from that date you have 34 days to enter India. For example, if you apply on September 2nd, you can enter the country between September 2nd and October 7th. This is different from the 30 days allowed in India ONCE you enter the country rule. If you apply to early, you forfeit your fees and must reapply. I suggest apply 2-3 weeks before – this will give you plenty of time to get approval and still allow for any date changes or delays in your flight into to India.
That’s it – Once you receive approval via email, print your eTV and you are ready for your trip! They will take biometrics and eye scans when you enter the country but I’ve heard it’s simple and there is a line designated only for eTVs. I will let you know how it goes in a few weeks!
Until then – safe travels!