All visitors to India other than citizens of Nepal and Bhutan must have a Visa. Your visa must be obtained before travelling into India, as there is no way of having one issued on arrival and there are no exceptions. The type of visa required for entry to India depends on your country of origin and the reason for your visit.
The important change that came into force recently is that The Indian High Commission has started to outsource the Indian visa application process to private processing agencies. It states that this outsourcing has been implemented in an attempt to streamline the process and make it more efficient. It also now allows people to pay for visas online by credit card.
VFS Global part of the Zurich based Kuoni Travel Group, has been awarded contracts to provide the outsource service to the Indian Embassy’s at Thailand, China, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the Indian High Commissions in Sri Lanka, Australia and The United Kingdom. Travisa Outsourcing is the company contracted to issue Visas in the United States.
The authority of VFS Global and Travisa Outsourcing extends only to the documentation and selection process. The issuing of visas is solely at the discretion of The Indian High Commission.
In the countries where this service has been implemented you can no longer obtain a visa directly from the High Commission or embassy (with the exception of diplomatic or official passports) you must use the appointed agency.
The downside of this outsourcing for the customer is that service charges have been introduced for all visa applications. As an example, the fee for a tourist visa for British travellers visiting India is still £30, but is subject to an £8 service charge when applied for in person or online. If applied for by post, then the additional charges are £15.40, made up of the service charge plus a charge for returning your passport.
In addition to this VFS Global has introduced a premium rate phone line for all visa enquiries.
The most convenient and time efficient way to apply is to complete the Indian visa application form online. You can also pay the fee by credit card online if you desire. Print off the completed form then make an appointment to submit your application, passport and required documents at the Visa Application Centre or send them by post. Applications have to be made to the centre at London, Birmingham or Edinburgh depending on your jurisdiction. This can be determined from a list of locations on the website. Alternatively, you can walk into the centre wait in the queue and submit your application. Expect a long wait. Be advised that you will need to visit the centre again to collect your passport when the application is complete, or arrange for it to be delivered by post. You will need to provide or pay for a Special Delivery Envelope if you choose to have it sent to you by post.
Applications in person should be processed within 3 to 4 days. Postal applications will take at least 15 days.
Applying for a visa can be done in person or through the mail. Travisa recommend applying through the mail to avoid waiting time and for greater convenience.
Same day visa applications must be submitted in person to the Outsourcing Office between 9:00am and 11:00am. The pickup time for these same day applications is usually between 5:30pm and 6:00pm. Applications received after 11:00am will have the visa issued the following working day. Travisa does state that in any case they can not guarantee the visa will be issued on the same day. Non-US citizens and US citizens who require a reference can expect a processing time of between 4 and 6 working days. Applications sent by mail should take approximately 5 working days to process from the date they are received by the processing department.
India visa processing centres are located at Washington DC. New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Houston. Which centre you make your application to depends on where in the United States you live, also known as jurisdiction. Details of which jurisdiction you are listed under can be found on the website.
Changes to the Indian Visa Application Process
USA applications via Travisa Outsourcing
UK applications via VFS Global
What are the consequences for the customer?