All visitors need a visa for India, except citizens of neighboring Nepal and Bhutan. India has a limited Visa on Arrival facility for tourists who are citizens of 11 counties. Otherwise, your Indian visa must be obtained before arriving in India. 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, otherwise an Indian Tourist Visa is necessary. See more about how long is an Indian transit visa valid for?
Tourist visas are generally issued for six months, depending on what nationality you are. Some countries issue visas for shorter durations such as three months, and longer durations such as one year. Most visas are multiple entry visas.
Ten year visas are obtainable from the United States. In addition, five year visas are available for people from 18 countries. These are France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Vietnam.
However, no matter what the duration of your Tourist visa is, you're not allowed to remain in India for more than 6 months (180 days) at a time. Furthermore, the above mentioned 5 year tourist visa only allows stays of up to 3 months (90 days) at a time. Also note that although a two month gap previously applied between visits to India on Tourist visas, this has now been removed.
Other types of visas that are available for visitors to India include Business Visas, Employment Visas, Research Visas, and Student Visas.
How Much Does an Indian Tourist Visa Cost
The cost of an Indian Tourist Visa varies between countries according to the arrangement between governments. For a six month Tourist Visa you can expect to pay $76 in the United States, 92 pounds in the United Kingdom (revised upwards in January 2013), and $95 in Australia. This includes service fees.
Some countries, such as Japan, South Africa, Argentina, Jamaica, and Mongolia have special agreements with India that allow their citizens to pay significantly less for a visa.
How to Apply for an Indian Visa
The Indian visa application process is outsourced to private processing agencies in most countries.
In the United States, Indian visa applications are handled by BLS International (an Indian company), which replaced Travisa Outsourcing in mid 2013.
The Indian government is currently in the process of replacing all foreign companies, including Travisa and VFS Global (which handles India visa processing in many other countries), with Indian companies. This has already happened in countries including Canada, South Africa and China, where BLS International has taken over visa services. So far, feedback about the change has not been positive. The worst problems have been encountered at the BLS New York office.
When applying for an Indian Visa, you'll need to complete an on-line application form. See Tips and Instructions for Completing the Indian Visa Application Form.
Along with your application and fee, for an Indian Tourist Visa you'll need to submit your passport that's valid for a least six months and has at least two blank pages, a recent passport sized photo, and details of your itinerary. In some countries, 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 required to be completed for tourist visas.
Permits for Protected/Restricted Areas in India
Even if you have a valid visa, there are some remote areas in India that require foreigners to obtain a Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit 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, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, In many cases, individual tourists are not allowed, only tour/trekking groups.
You should apply for your PAP at the same time as you apply for your visa.