Please note: all of these tips are for our American guests, as we can’t specialize in visa applications for citizens from every country. Please look into the India visa requirements for YOUR country here: http://www.projectvisa.com
For 2015, our guests need to apply for their Indian Visa about 3-4 months ahead of the trip. As we will be entering India twice (once initially, and then again through Kathmandu), you will not be eligible for the visa on arrival (which may or may not start in Summer 2015, anyways!)
** Guests on our Summer 2015 Ladakh trip CAN apply for a Visa on Arrival, as we will only be entering the country once. Please click here for information on the visa on arrival process: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html **
Please carefully read the instructons here: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html
If you will be entering the country twice, you will need to apply in the old way (which I will outline here):
A company called Cox & Kings Global Services (CKGS) recently took over the visa application process; unfortunately they aren’t as straight-forward as previous companies, but if you read the instructions extremely carefully (along with this blog), you can do it! Allow yourself an hour or so to deal will all of this, more or less. Please read this blog and the CKGS instructions very, very carefully, as you will need this visa to join the RetreaTour™ and we cannot be held liable if you do not apply correctly or do not get your visa in time. We wish we could do it for you, but alas, we cannot; that’s why we made this handy blog, though! (*Note: this is for our American guests only. Please contact us if you have troubles with your country’s process of acquiring an Indian Visa.)
All the while, know that any frustration with this form will be well worth it; and, as the saying goes, “The British created bureaucracy, and the Indians perfected it.”
(NOTE: This is the process in a nutshell, but does not replace any other other information:: http://www.in.ckgs.us/how-do-apply.shtml. Starting here will give you a nice overview and might make the other steps make more sense.)
- Start here:: http://www.in.ckgs.us/. Under “Indian Visa,” click on “Types of Visas and Fees.”
- That will bring you here (http://www.in.ckgs.us/visa/type-of-visa.shtml) where you will click on “Tourist Visa” in the beige box. (note: whenever you are given a choice, you will always select “Tourist Visa.”)
- That will bring you to this page: http://www.in.ckgs.us/visa/type-of-visa/tourist-visa.shtml. This will be your jumping off point for the rest of your time on this page, so familiarize yourself with it. From here you will navigate among the top bar under the heading “Tourist Visa” that says Introduction > Process > Forms > Documents Required > Processing Fees > Value Added Services > Processing Time.
- Click on “Process.” Focus on the right hand column that says “Submit by Postal/Courier.” The page looks like this:
It is very important that you expand ALL those headers (Steps 1-7) and read them carefully (except “Fill Courier Service Form Online.” More on this later, but know that it is an added value service and not required.) It is going to make your life a lot easier to familiarize yourself with the process before beginning.
- When you’ve read through everything, you can begin. Expand “Online Application” and click that link. That will take you here, http://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/, where you can begin your visa application online. Click the “online application link” that is in the text (see picture below). Most questions are mostly straightforward (although you do have to give information about your mother, your father, and you do have to choose a religion. Don’t worry, they won’t quiz you about your chosen religion!)
Make sure to write down your Temporary Application ID (found in pink on top of your application) in case your computer freezes or if you have to come back to it for some other reason. It will be a 15 character combination of letters and numbers. You will also need this later if you wish to track the progress of your application.
- When you were reading through all of the instructions on the Previous Page, you should have found where to send your application (that was Step 4: Identify Jurisdiction and Service Centers,” from the same page that is pictured above. When you click on a location, it will list the states under that office’s jurisdiction, in case you’re not sure where you fall). You will need to enter this location from a drop-down menu as the very first question on the application, titled “Indian Mission.” You’ll find the American centers down under “USA.” See below:
- A couple tricky questions/vocabulary differences:
- Your Citizenship Number is your Social Security Number.
- Visible Identification Mark: this is for any identifying scars or tattoos.
- Educational Qualification: this is where our vocabularies differ in a big way! You’ll most likely be choosing one of these: “Higher Secondary” (finished high school), “Graduate” (Bachelors Degree), “Post-Grad” (Masters degree and above), or “Professional.” Please don’t stress too hard about this question.
- I emailed you the name and address of your Indian reference (please contact me if you cannot find it); for the American reference, you can simply use a friend or family member (most people use their emergency contact here).
Under “Details of Visa Sought,” you’ll want it to look something like this. (The image below is blurry, I know, so I’m going to walk you through it.)
- Type of Visa is Tourist Visa
- Places Visited can be found on the website (but for 2015 it will be New Delhi, Amritsar, Agra, Varanasi.)
- Duration of Visa in Months: this is where you enter what kind of visa you are applying for–6 months, 5 years, or 10 years. If you think you may go back to India again, the 10 year one is a great value; otherwise, just apply for a 6 month one.
- Number of entries: MULTIPLE (this is important).
- Purpose of visit: Tourism.
- Expected date of journey: enter the start date of the trip.
- Port of arrival and port of exit will both be New Delhi.
*Note: When I was filling out a demo application, I had a hard time uploading a photo; this is not necessary, as you will attach a real photo on your application, so don’t worry about that.
When you are done answering the questions, you will be taken to a page where you can PRINT your application, which you need to do (so make sure you have access to a printer for this process). Sign that form and put it aside for a bit.
- Next step: the photo. As documented in #7 on this page (http://www.in.ckgs.us/visa/documents-required.shtml; make sure you scroll down and click the Tourist Visa option), “Photograph: One recent color passport size 2 inches by 2 inches (2″x2″) photo on glossy photo paper, showing full frontal view of the applicants face against a white background to be pasted on the application form. Photograph should not be stapled, paper clips are fine. Note: The photo requirements are very strict. Your local Walgreens and CVS will typically offer passport photo services; here are some more ideas about where to have one taken: http://traveltips.usatoday.com/places-passport-photo-taken-61534.html
- Please go back to this page and click on “Forms.” You can download and print a handy checklist of whta you’ll need to send with this application (the first option). Then, go to the “Documents Required” page (right next to Forms option in that menu) where you will find hyperlink to all of these necessary forms. None of them are difficult to answer; please print out all of these completed forms (CKGS Order Form, Additional Particulars Form, Declaration Form.
- You’ll also need to send in proof of address; the easiest will be a driver’s license, but make sure the address is the same as on the visa application! Utility bills will also be accepted, but not cellphone bills. As stated on the website, “Proof of address: All applicants need to submit a photocopy with proof of residence / address that matches the present address on the visa application. Examples for Address proof : State Issued Identity cards i.e. Valid driving license, Utility Bills for water, Gas, Electric, Sewage, copy of valid lease, with signature of Landlord AND tenant to be provided. Do not cut any document to smaller size like Driving size, passport copy. Utility bill must be from last 90 days. Note: The following documents are NOT considered as address proof.
- Cell phone bill, credit card Statement, bank Statement, cable bill, insurance forms.
- The address cannot include a P.O. Box.”
- This is a new step and it is obnoxious, but you gotta do what you gotta do. From #10 on the Documents Required page: “If the applicant is a student, retired, self-employed / freelancer or house-wife, bank statement for the last three months is required to be submitted.” A print out or copy of statements will suffice.
- Please click on “Processing Fees” in the menu on this page (http://www.in.ckgs.us/visa/type-of-visa/tourist-visa.shtml). The total for a 6 months visa is $80; $170 for 5 and 10 year visas. Please read this page carefully as it will inform you how to pay for the visa.
- After you’ve identified the office where you will send your application (again, Step 4 on this page: http://www.in.ckgs.us/visa/type-of-visa/tourist-visa.shtml), click on Step 6: Send Your Application. Please read and follow these terribly written directions as carefully as you can. We suggest sending your application via Fed Ex; you will also need to include a “self-addressed stamped envelope” so that they can return your passport to you. From the site: “Prepaid Envelope provided for return of the passport: Applicants are requested to utilize FedEX as preferred mode of return shipment. At this time all CKGS Application Center, USA locations, are unable to use manual hand written labels from any courier. Please provide a computer generated label from the courier website or retail store with your postal application. // The prepaid envelope provided for return of the passport after processing must have the same address as given on the proof of address. Applicants must not provide a handwritten or manual FedEX air bill. Airbills with credit card information, handwritten airbills or blank airbills with information typed in cannot be used by CKGS office. All such passports will be held back in CKGS office and may lead to delays. CKGS strongly recommends using a traceable airbill from FedEX. CKGS also recommends that return shipping package is insured. // Please specify department name outside of the envelope. For Example:- VISA Applicants to mention VISA.”
Like we said, this will ALL be worth it! Please let us know when you receive your visa so we may record your visa number. If you haven’t gotten your visa back 3 weeks after sending it, please contact CKGS to check on the status.
If you have questions, there is an FAQ although it is not exhaustive: http://www.in.ckgs.us/general-information/faq.shtml Each application center also has contact information, phone and email, for questions: http://www.in.ckgs.us/application-centres.shtml. Good luck!