I’ve just been through the byzantine process of getting a visa to visit India. Actually, once the package of documents was sent off by post, it was quite slick: I received regular updates on the application’s progress, and everything was completed and returned within about a week. But getting to that point was far from straightforward. For the benefit of other travellers, here are my tips for navigating the process:
- The starting point is http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk/. Read everything they have to say. Click every link. Open lots of tabs. The information is all there, but not necessarily all in one place.
- During the online process, make a note of every ID or transaction number you’re given. A couple of times during my attempt, I thought I’d lost my application, but was able to restore it using one or more of the ID numbers.
- Timing is important. The visa starts on the day it’s issued and lasts for 3 months, 6 months or 1 year depending on what you asked (and paid) for. So for example, if you’re planning a 3 month trip, a 3 month visa is no good – you’d have to gamble on receiving it on the day you depart. You’d need a 6 month visa, which you could safely apply for 3 months before departing.
- If you’re an ordinary British tourist, you need a Tourist Visa.
- You don’t need a sponsor or an address. On that part of the form, just say you’ll be staying in hotels, which you haven’t booked yet.
- For a Tourist Visa, you should end up with four printed documents: the completed application form, a declaration form, and two checklists – the generic one and the Tourist Visa specific one.
- Get your photographs taken and printed at a high street photo shop. Tell them it’s for an Indian visa. They’ll have done them before, and they’ll know the rather strict requirements.
- Pay online.
- Don’t bother with the SMS update service for the extra £2. You’ll receive regular email updates anyway.
- For return of your passport, don’t pay the visa service to provide return postage. Include a paid, self-addressed special delivery envelope in with your documents. It works out cheaper.
- Send off your bundle by special delivery. As a reminder, it should contain: application form, declaration form, checklist, tourist visa checklist, two photographs, passport, special delivery envelope for return of passport.
Good luck, and happy travelling!