Ever since the internet has become such a powerful and resourceful tool, booking your holiday has become a lot simpler. If you so wished, you could be in Sri Lanka or Cambodia 2 days from now, with a full itinerary expertly planned down to a ‘T’. There are even hints of virtual tourism being the next big thing, which will enable you to view the world’s most popular sites without leaving your house (I do not support this venture, but I will leave this discussion for another time). With luxury world travel only a click or phone call away, the question has to be asked: Why is it so difficult to obtain a visa to one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, India? I regularly visit the uninspiring VFS Global office on Goswell Road in order to acquire Indian Visas for our clients, only to be told once I have queued for an hour that I am missing some documents, the passport is too new/old or quite simply that they don’t like the colour of my jumper! This unfortunate news is given to me by a stern and emotionally detached employee, who I am certain is enjoying my plight. In light of my regular interaction with the staff and growing knowledge of their equally growing set of rules and regulations, I feel like I can offer some assistance and guidelines to obtaining an Indian visa.
Before you go you will need:
- Passport which is valid for at least 190 days and has 2 full blank pages. If you have a new passport (no more than 3 months), you will need to bring your old passport with you!
- 2 x Passport sized photos
- Application form, completed fully in Black ink.
- Correct visa fee, which is £39.05
Jobs – for the following jobs you will need a formal letter, on your company’s letter head, saying the following: “I am travelling to India for Tourism purposes only. During my stay I will not participate in any professional activity.”
- Charity worker
- Police Officer
- Cabin Crew & Pilot
- Media Related: Art, music, acting, dance, singer, all-round performer, photographer, editor, publisher, writer, author. For all those in Media related jobs, the visa will cost you £64.05!
Foreign passport – if you have a foreign passport you will need 2 bills (gas, electricity, water or council tax ONLY). One must be 2 years old, the other 2 months old. The dates of these bills are vital!
Multiple entries – visiting India within 2 months on the same trip (i.e. flying in to Delhi, then onto Bhutan before returning to Delhi to fly home). Take a detailed itinerary of your trip and the Re-entry request form on top of the documents listed above.
– visiting India within 2 months on a separate trip (i.e. when you return to the UK from India, and wish to return within 2 months of your visa being issued) . For this you will have to visit the High Commission of India in London in person and take all the documents listed above, another passport photo and persuade them to allow you to return to India, since the re-entry permit is “granted on a discretionary basis, only for urgent travel requirements”.
The doors open at 08:30 for your visa application at the VFS offices in London (Victoria & Goswell Road (Barbican)), but the queues begins to form around 08:00. For every 2 minutes earlier you arrive, you will save 25 minutes in being seen for your application. Bring a book/newspaper to maintain your sanity! Once you are seen do not dispute anything they say as this will get you nowhere, you are in the hands of their rules. Your best plan of action is to have all the relevant documents with you, and to smile and keep calm. In the event of missing a critical piece of paper, you can have it faxed to their office there and then which will save you returning the following morning and going through the whole procedure again.
Collection is usually a swift procedure and starts at 13:00 until 16:30 and is normally (not always) ready 2 days after you dropped it off (drop-off Wednesday morning, pick-up Friday Afternoon). Please check whether your passport is ready online before travelling to pick it up
There are plenty more obscure rules on their website. However this is not a complete list, it has been known for them to change a rule without any prior notification. If you decide to travel with Ampersand Travel, we can assist you in alleviating the stress. For everyone else, GOOD LUCK! If you have any advice or tricks to simplify the process we would appreciate hearing them.