Obtaining the India e-Tourist Visa
The visa process for India has been the most stressful part of this whole going to India adventure, mostly because the information I could find online was from UK sites, especially pertaining to the India E-Tourist Visa. Or the information was so many years old that it told me my visa would only be valid for 30 days (actually they’re now good for 60 days). Anyways, here’s my US citizen version of applying for and successfully obtaining an e-Tourist Visa for India.
Let me start by clarifying that there are two different types of tourist visas you can procure for a trip to India. There is the standard tourist visa, valid for 10 years, 6 month stay at a time, unlimited entries. For this visa you have to send your passport away to a local-ish office (for Virginia mine was in DC) and the visa is actually fastened into your passport before you even leave US soil.
The second option is still relatively new called the India e-Tourist Visa, or ETV. The ETV was rolled out in lieu of the visa on arrival program that India at one time had in place. You are basically pre-registering for your arrival in India. This visa is a little “easier” to obtain because your passport doesn’t have to be sent away. Instead you fill out a document online, wait for your visa to be granted, print off the appropriate paperwork, and bring that when you arrive in India.
Here are some of the specifications of the India e-Tourist Visa:
- Valid for 60 days from initial entry into India
- Valid for double entry, meaning you can leave for a few days and return within the 60 day time period to India
- Agreement with 100+ countries, so chances are you’d qualify
- Valid for entry in specific airports and seaports—you should be fine flying into a major international airport, but be sure to double check
- Don’t try to apply too early. At minimum you must apply 4 days before arrival, although I don’t suggest waiting that long. But you can only apply about 120 days in advance of your trip because of the expiration of the ETV. For instance, my visa was granted on July 7 and is valid to use anytime between July 8 and November 9.
I’d like to say before I start the process of applying that if it weren’t for my brother, I would not have survived this process because I am a perpetual worrier. So shout out to Aaron if you’re reading this. You’re the man and I couldn’t have gotten this visa without you.
Alas, I digress. To begin the process of applying for the India e-Tourist Visa, I highly suggest reading this website thoroughly. You submit your paperwork through the Indian government website linked in the previous sentence. The website also tells you exactly how your documents need to be formatted. Anything I read in regards to the ETV said if your documents were not in the appropriate format or size they will immediately deny your visa.
The two documents needed are a copy of the information portion of your passport, including the photo and signature, and a 2×2 photo. The copy of passport information was easy enough. I stuck my passport on our copier at home, scanned it into the computer and used a website like to size it to the appropriate MBs and format, PDF.
Being the cheap-o that I am, I really wanted to have my brother or someone take my photo for the visa, however I came to my senses and headed to my local AAA office. For $8 I walked out with two perfectly sized and captured photos. I followed the regulations for US passport photos and had no issues with my photos being approved. Again, I stuck the photo in the copier, scanned it into the computer, stuck it in a website to resize and change to the appropriate format, jpeg.
I cannot stress enough the importance of making sure your documents are the appropriate size and format. I know that sounds absurd, but had I not read other people’s woes about their visa being denied, presumably because of incorrect formatting, I would’ve gone with whatever size the documents were in my computer.
What I found to be most challenging in the entire India e-Tourist Visa process was the 3 page written application that was filled out. Most of it was pretty straight forward, name as it appears on your passport, details on your passport, and the purpose of your visit. A few things that you should be prepared for that seemed a little bizarre to me are your family details, including your mother and father’s names and nationalities, the name, address, and phone number of a contact in India, and your occupational details.
Thankfully, I know my parents details, it just felt very odd that it was requested on my visa application. I will say, I have not personally applied for a visa for another country before, so this may be common practice, but not many other things ask for details regarding my parents.
The information about your contact can be the name of the hotel you are staying at upon your arrival, at least according to other sites I read. I am personally very glad that I am going to visit my boyfriend who lives in India, so I was able to put his address and phone number easily. Although I will say, I thought I had a long address. It is nothing compared to an Indian address!
And finally, the occupation details. I struggled with this one mainly because I didn’t want to be denied my visa just because they thought I didn’t make enough money to be visiting. There is a drop down list of options to choose from, all of which seemed pretty random to me. Of course, none of them embodied “post-college waitress because I don’t know what to do with my life,” so I opted for “other” which I hate doing, and put food service.
My place of most intense deliberation was my “place of birth.” As you’re filling out the application it asks for personal particulars, as they appear in your passport. However the prompt says “town/city/county” of birth. Initially, I did put my birth city. After vacillating for nearly an hour, and that’s not an exaggeration, I decided to go with what was in my passport, my state of birth. Needless to say, once I submitted my form, I was a nervous wreck.
What didn’t help with my nerves was the fact that my payment didn’t process on the first try. The cost for the India e-Tourist Visa from the US is $75. When you go to input payment, there are two different bank options. Of course, I picked the first one first. Both times that I attempted to pay with the first bank, the website timed out and my payment wasn’t processed. Finally, I got smart and went with Axis Bank, the second option, which processed my payment perfectly the first time.
And then I waited.
I submitted my payment on Friday evening, so Saturday morning India time. The e-mail confirmation you receive says to allow 72 hours for processing. Much to my surprise, I randomly woke up at 4am on Sunday morning (in the US) to find my visa had been granted! Holy wave of relief. I probably should have applied for my ETV a bit earlier, especially since so many stories I read online were horror stories about being denied.
I can’t speak to why my application was approved first try and others were not, but I highly suggest double, triple checking that your passport copy is in PDF and the appropriate size and that your headshot is JPEG and also in the appropriate size. Those two things seem to be the major reason why the India e-Tourist Visa applications are denied.
Don’t let the visa process scare you, though! Coming to India has been such an incredible experience so far and you shouldn’t be deterred from such an amazing country just because of a nerve-racking visa process. Read about some of my Indian adventures here!
In my own world,