I recently read an article about the elusive Indian visa where the author was providing a shameless plug for a passport service without providing accurate information. It got me thinking about all of the faulty information on the internet due to people trying to make money off of their websites. Well rest assured, if you are reading this, I make absolutely no money on this website. The information you read here is based on my own experiences. Here's my take on applying for a visa to India.
When I first started looking at the visa process in India I was overwhelmed. It was enough to make me not want to go. The process has since changed, outsourced to private companies. A tourist visa on arrival was also added for US citizens (and some other countries too). All you have to do is fill out an online application at least 4 days before your departure date, pay the fee, print the confirmation page, and take it with you on your trip with your passport and any other necessary documentation. All the information you need is on the application page. So easy!
If your travel plans exceed 30 days, you will need to apply through the embassy's company of choice. In the US it is Cox & Kings Global Services. What this means is that this company handles all of the paperwork and provides middle man service to the Indian embassy or consulate. Extra costs are involved, but it allows the whole process to be much more efficient. Their website provides very clear instructions for all of the paperwork involved. Follow that, and you are all set. If you have questions along the way, they are very prompt in responding over email as well.
The tourist visa application asks for basic personal information. You will also need to know your parents birthplace, birthdate, and citizenship. Also note, the application asks for an address and contact in India. It's also best to apply for the minimum amount of time necessary. If you are going on one trip, don't apply for the 10 year multiple entry visa even if there is a chance you will return in the future. Other than that, it's a standard application that can be filled out and paid for online. Then just print it and the other necessary forms listed on the Cox & Kings website, and you're all set.
If you live close to the nearest global services office, you can personally drop off your application. If you don't, you can pay for door to door courier service.
If you opt for the personal approach, it goes something like this:
1. Make online appointment a couple days prior
2. Find the office (for me it was taking a train trip to New York City)
3. Hand the person at the desk your paperwork (already filled out with your passport)
4. Person takes your paperwork, sifting out the unnecessary pages
5. She enters your information into the system while chatting to other employees.
6. Less than 5 minutes later you are getting an email update and are out of the building wondering what to do with the rest of your day
7. Three days later, visa arrives to your house if you paid for courier service (or you go back and pick it up)
Maybe I showed up on a good day, or maybe it's always like that. Either way, I was in and out in less than 5 minutes. The process couldn't have been easier, and I received email updates at each stage of the process. I caused myself all sorts of stress for no reason. The important thing is to allow yourself plenty of time before you are set to go on your trip, and you'll be fine.
**Disclaimer: I am an American citizen with parents and grandparents who are also American citizens. This made the process easier. If you have parents or grandparents with Pakistani citizenship, the process can be much more difficult.