Indian visa tips

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. If you’re an ordinary British tourist, you need a Tourist Visa.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Pay online.
  9. Don’t bother with the SMS update service for the extra £2. You’ll receive regular email updates anyway.
  10. 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.
  11. 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!

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