FAQs and a complete step by step guide on how to apply for an Indian visa from the UK.
Nearly all visitors need to apply for a visa before traveling to India (apart from citizens of Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan) so applying for an Indian visa is an essential part of planning your trip to India.
Sadly the process can be tedious and over the recent months new developments have made it even more confusing, especially for UK passport holders. From statutory biometric testing and finger printing to visas on arrival! What’s going on!?
I’ve just applied for my 5th Indian visa in as many years, each time the process has been slightly different but equally confusing, so I thought it was about time I guided you through the process of how to apply for a tourist visa to visit India. Despite the frustrations with the visa process it will be worth it! India is probably the most incredible place to travel in the world!
Please bear in mind this is from the point of view of a British / UK passport holder (and this is just my experience, I’m happy to answer your queries but I’m not an immigration professional and I am updating this post regularly but guidelines can change frequently and suddenly. Requirements and processes for other nationalities are different so I cannot comment on the process for other nationalities. If you’re from the USA check out Hippie in Heels post about How to apply for Indian tourist visa from the USA. If you’re from Canada read this post.
So what’s going on and how do you get a visa to visit India?
UK passport holders must apply for a visa before visiting India, even if you go for an E-Visa or Visa on Arrival. Some important things to note before you start is that Indian tourist visas are valid from the date of issue not the date of your entry to India so being prepared and applying months in advance will waste the time on your visa.
Short term Indian visas – visa on arrival and e-visas.
How to get an Indian Visa on Arrival/ E Visa
There has been a lot of talk about India introducing Visa on Arrival! Horay! This would be a great step towards increasing tourism in India but the visa on arrival is deceptive – it is more an E-Visa / electronic travel authority. You must still apply for the visa in advance before you travel but it does make the visa process quicker and easier for short visits.
Citizens from 161 countries are eligible to apply online for an E Tourist Visa to India, including UK and Ireland, USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and many European Countries.
At first the ETA was only valid for 30 days and was only single entry (1 month) but now you can get a 60 days (2 months). The E Visa costs $60 (about £39) plus a small admin charge. The application process is fully online, you can apply a minimum of 4 days before you travel to India.
Update April 2017: The E-visa now has three subcategories; e-Tourist Visa, e-Business Visa, e-Medical Visa. Double entry is permitted on E-Tourist Visa and E-Business Visa. Triple Entry will be permitted on E-Medical visa. The e-visa facility has been extended to the nationals of 161 countries for entry through 24 airports and 3 Indian seaports. The seaports are Cochin, Goa and Mangalore and the window for application under e-visa scheme has been increased from 30 days to 120 days.
How to apply for an Indian E Visa online
You can apply for an E Visa to India on the government website here, You then collect your visa on arrival at one of the major airports in India.
Sounds easy but bear in mind that there is still quite a lot of paperwork to fill out and if you make a mistake on the forms you could be rejected and have to apply again. The fee for the visa and for processing for the application is non-refundable, even if the visa is not granted.
If your parents or grandparents were born in Pakistan, sadly you not be eligible to get an E-Tourist Visa whatever your current nationality so unfortunately you will have to apply for a normal Tourist Visa.
To take the stress and hassle out of applying for your Indian visa let iVisa sort everything out for you. They charge a service fee but make the process simpler and easier to follow and offer a zero frustration policy. They can process your application and send your E Visa via email in only 18 hours. They also have a window for arrival of 120 days meaning you can get your visa sorted well in advance of your trip but remember you still need a apply online no later than 4 days in advance of your arrival date to India.
The ETA is not extendable or convertible and you can only apply for 2 ETVs in 1 year. As the process is fully online (you are not required to send off your passport and wait for 2 weeks for the visa to be processed) the E Visa makes a quick holiday to India much easier.
Applying for a 6 month or 12 month Indian tourist visa with VFS Global
If you want to visit India for longer than 1 or 2 months (which I highly recommend as there is so much to see in this huge, diverse country and its not a place you can rush) then you will still need to apply for a visa by sending away your application and passport.
The Indian visa application process in the UK has been outsourced to VFS Global, the website and instructions for applying for the visa are confusing to say the least.
If you want to make the process easier for the longer visa then you can use an agency like Visa HQ or read on and I’ll guide you through the process of applying for an Indian tourist visa with VFS Global.
Which Indian visa should I apply for?
Basically most UK citizens travel to India on a tourist visa valid for 3 – 6 months. You can get single, double or multiple entry, 3, 6 or 12 months. Tourist visas are non-extendable and non-convertible. You may as well apply for a 6 month or even 12 month multiple entry tourist visa because the price and process for applying is still the same. However, even on a 12 month visa you are still not allowed to spend more than 180 days (6 months) in India but you can leave for a day and come back without having to go through the hassle of applying again!
You can also try for an upto 5 year multiple entry tourist visa. Again there is a maximum stay of 180 days per visit and they say that biometric enrollment is mandatory for the 5 year visa, although this is yet to be fully implemented. You will need to also provide a letter stating why you require a 5 year tourist visa. The duration of visa granted is at the discretion of the authorities and they do not refund the difference if the visa is rejected or given for a shorter period of time. Again there is a maximum stay of 180 days per visit.
Tourist visas are only granted to foreigners who do not have a residence or occupation in India and whose sole objective of visiting India is recreation, sightseeing, casual visit to meet friends and relatives, etc. No other activity is permissible on a tourist visa. There are different visas for volunteering, studying, journalism, employment, business, research etc which require more documents and biometrics.
When you fill out the form there are many questions where your answer may cause the rejection of your visa. If you’re parents or grand parents are from Pakistan or if your occupation is linked to the armed forces or media/ journalism. Any media or journalist related occupations will likely be rejected and you would need to apply for a different Journalist visa which is only valid for 3 months and provide biometrics. If you work in the media, police or armed forces, commercial pilots/crew members, charity/social workers, researchers, and priests you will need a letter from your employer stating the purpose of your travel.
However, the duration of the visa is at the sole discretion of the Issuing Authority. The High Commission of India do not always give you the exact length and entries of visa that you have asked for so you never know what you’ve got until you receive your passport back. All visa fees are non-refundable even if your visa is rejected or the duration granted is shorter than what you asked for. Also, the validity of the visa begins from the date of issue by the High Commission of India and not from the date of travel on your application form.
For the best chance is getting the longer visa it’s always best to apply in your home country. You can apply from places like Nepal, Sri Lanka or Bali but often they will only grant 3 month single entry visas.
How much does a tourist visa for India cost for a UK national?
A tourist visa for India costs £112 for UK passport holders.
But then after you add on other processing fees, the cost for postage and to get special passport photos taken the total cost for applying for an Indian tourist visa adds up to £119.44 in total. The 5 year visa costs £339.44
The fee is also non-refundable—even if your application is denied the fee is not refunded.
So can I apply online for an Indian visa, through the post or do I need to attend an appointment and submit biometrics or fingerprints?
The most confusing thing is that it is hard to find information that tells you how to apply by post as all the information on the website seems to say that you need to make an appointment to physically go to London and apply for the visa in person. In March 2015 it was announced that:
“All Applicants will be required to book an appointment online to submit their applications at VFS Application Centres (14). Applicants will be able to book an appointment on VFS Website www.vfsglobal.com/India/UK/ at the time of filing online application forms. Biometric Data collection, including fingerprint data and facial imagery will be a mandatory requirement for all visa applicants soon. As a result, all visa applicants will need to first apply online and, thereafter, be physically present (mandatorily) at India Visa and Consular Services centres, by appointment, for submission of visa application and biometric data enrolment.” And it goes on to say that “ No applications will be accepted without appointment after 16th March 2015.” And “ No applications will be accepted by post.”
Seriously! What a way to encourage tourism! 🙁
As much as I love India I can see why people would choose to visit somewhere like Thailand or Sri Lanka to save this kind of hassle and expense.
After searching around the website and in forums a bit more I am relieved to find that actually Biometric data collection has not been introduced for tourist visas (apart from the 5 year one, but even so this is not always the case, or if you are a journalist) and applications can still be received through post/courier but need an additional processing time of at least two weeks and I successfully received my visa through the post.
So it seems like the plans to make attending an appointment and submitting fingerprints and biometric data appear to have been shelved for a while thankfully. But, it could have been made a little clearer, on the website.
How to apply for an Indian visa by post
When applying for an Indian visa, either by post or by appointment, you need to start by filling out the form on the VFS Global website.
The first mission is working out where to start the application and where to find the online application form, to save you the trouble here is the link.
Click on this and then click on the red tab that says ‘regular visa application’ – https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/info1.jsp
The first hurdle to over come is which ‘mission’ you select. All postal applications are only being accepted in Hounslow so pick UK London but if you did find it more convenient to attend an appointment there are several other offices across the UK.
Then continue to fill out the ridiculously long form – I’ve never been asked so many questions from my religion, education, any visible identification marks, occupation, place of birth of mother and father and whether my grandparents were born in Pakistan, details of previous visits to India and the previous visa number and all the countries that I have visited in the last 10 years.
References for applying for an Indian Visa
The form also asks you for a reference in India – if you don’t have any friends in India you can use a hotel or tour company as a reference. If you haven’t booked a hotel yet (because you are still figuring out how to get a damn visa!?) you could always book provisionally on Booking.com and cancel or change the booking later. Or just pick a hotel as I doubt that they even check the reference anyway.
Next you need to provide a reference in the UK – I always just use my Mum!
Once you have answered all the questions, confirm the details. It then gives you your application number – it’s a good idea to make a note of the application number incase the website crashes because you have the application number you can log back in, if not you’ll have to start again. The website often crashes or does peculiar things! Sometimes it gets stuck at the part where you print off the form and won’t progress to make the payment or appointment. If that happens to you use this link https://www.vfsvisaservice.com/IHC_UK_ONLINE/(S(xfl0pvli34mrlyqhjyidyu2v) to get there!
Then you need to print off the application form. Make sure you sign it in the right places (on both pages) and attach the right size photos. You also need to print off and include a signed declaration form. You can find that here – http://www.vfsglobal.com/India/UK/pdf/Declaration1_240815.pdf
Photos required for the Indian Tourist Visa Application
The Indian visa application also requires 2 passport photos but they are a different sized passport photo to normal UK passport photos – 50mm x 50mm, the same size as USA passport photos so you can quite easily get these done in most photo booths for £5 for 4 or a specialised photography shop in the UK.
You can also check the specifications and take a photo yourself and upload a photo to the application for a service cost of £10 or you can get them printed out at Boots for less than £1.
It’s a good idea to get some extra ones because you will need them if you want to get a sim card for your mobile phone. See more on this (also overly complicated process) on how to get a Sim Card in India
How to submit the Indian visa application
Click on the button to ‘make appointments and payments’ and select your mode of submission – either you want to make an appointment or send by post.
Then go to the tab at the top – ‘Visa Fee and Pay Details’ and you can make the payment. The payment page looks a bit dodgy but I’ve never had any problems with it.
Money Saving Tip – Watch out for the extras. Untick the extra charges for uploading a photo and delivery. VFS will ask you for £14.95 per application to return your passport instead, when you go to the Post Office to send off your application (I always send mine special delivery) get another special delivery, prepaid envelope and self address it – this should cost only £7.25. Half the price!
Where to send your Indian visa application
Check you have everything:
- Printed and signed application form
- Declaration form
- 2 sized passport photos
- Return signed delivery envelope
Don’t send it to the address on the top of your Indian visa application form – send it to:
Indian Visa and Consular Application Centre,
The Vista Centre,
First Floor, Part A, Block 50, Salisbury Road,
Hounslow, TW4 6JQ
How long does the Indian visa take to process?
Officially it states that the processing time for an Indian tourist visa takes a minimum of 2 weeks. I’ve had mine come back in anything from less than a week to a bit over 2 weeks, so allow enough time but remember it’s valid from the date of issue not the date of entry.
You should get an email or text saying something along the lines of ‘a decision has made on your application … your processed application is ready for collection or courier’ Once you get this your passport should be back with you in the next few days after that. You will not know until you open the post whether your visa has been granted or refused or if it has been granted for the full amount of time and number of entries you have asked for.
Do I need another permit?
Until late 2012 you were not allowed to leave and renter India within 2 months (you had to wait 2 months even if your visa was still valid!?) To enter without the gap of 2 months you had to apply for a permit to re-enter and to get this had to compile an itinerary for the whole trip. Thankfully a re entry permit is no longer required and that restriction has been lifted.
However, certain restricted areas including most of the states in the far North East, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and some border areas still require permits. Usually the easiest way to obtain these through going with a travel agency or on a tour.
Can you apply for an Indian visa outside of the UK or your country of residence?
Although it’s always better to apply for a visa in your home country or country of residence, it is possible to obtain and Indian visa in neighbouring countries, although since the introduction of the E-Visa is has become harder and travellers have reported difficulties recently in obtaining Indian visas, especially in Bangkok, Thailand and often only get single entry 3 month visas are given out when the travelers asked for multiple entry, 6 month visas. Now the E Visa is valid for 60 days and is much easier to obtain you might want to try that if applying for outside the UK.
I’ve heard that places like Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar are now good places to get an Indian visa, but this is just what I’ve heard from friends and other travelers. By getting the visa in your country of residence means you have the best chance of being accepted and getting the longer term visas, but it’s still possible to get one in Southeast Asia but its a good idea to check online forums and ask around before deciding which place to do it.
Incredible India will be worth it
As with everything in India really, the visa process requires a bit of patience and persistence but you will be richly rewarded and with proper planning your first trip to India will be memorable for all the right reasons!
Make sure you check out my Complete Step by Step Guide to Planning for your First Trip to India and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime!
India is a country like no where else on earth, it will challenge, enchant, surprise, captive and transform you! It will be worth it!
Need Help with Applying for your Indian Visa?
I’m happy to try and answer your questions but bear in mind I am not an immigration professional.
If you need professional assistance contact iVisa for the E Visa or Visa HQ for 6 month visa. You can also contact VFS Global with any queries by emailing [email protected] or call +44 203 793 8629 or +44 203 788 4666 (Monday – Friday 8:30 – 15:30 (except for Consular Holiday) You can also call 09057570045 from Monday – Friday 8:30 – 17:30 (except for Consular Holidays) but this number charges 95p per minute from a BT landline and more from a mobile.
Read more and prepare for your trip to India:
HOW TO GET A VISA ON ARRIVAL OR E TOURIST VISA FOR INDIA
3 MONTHS BACKPACKING INDIA – TIPS FOR 1ST TIMERS AND THE PERFECT ITINERARY
10 TIPS FOR YOUR FIRST TIME TRAVELING IN INDIA
11 TIPS FOR WOMEN TRAVELING IN INDIA
INDIA FOR BEGINNERS – WHY KERALA IS THE PERFECT INTRODUCTION TO TRAVELING IN INDIA
TYPICAL COSTS AND BUDGET TIPS FOR BACKPACKING IN INDIA
THE AVERAGE DAILY BUDGET FOR BACKPACKING IN INDIA
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO TRAIN TRAVEL IN INDIA.