All foreign nationals coming to India are required to have a valid passport and a valid Indian Visa. Exceptions are citizens of Bhutan, Nepal and the Maldives. Holders of PIO (Person of Indian Origin) and OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) Cards also only need passports.
Since the application process can be very time-consuming you should apply for a visa well in advance. One month is a safe bet, although the process can take longer.
Visa application for India
Depending on the duration and purpose of your stay you will have to apply for different visas. Unfortunately, application forms and procedures can differ depending on the country you apply from and in some cases even where you apply within that country. When filling in your visa application make sure that you have used the correct form.
There are certain documents that you will need for all visa applications, no matter which type of visa you apply for. These are:
- your passport, valid for at least six months (or the period of time you apply for) and with at least three blank pages in it
- two passport-sized photographs
- two of the respective visa application forms correctly filled in and signed by you
If you have been in a country with high risk of yellow fever transmission within six days prior to your arrival in India, you have to provide a yellow fever certificate stating that you have been vaccinated against the disease. For more information, check the website of the WHO, at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
It is important to keep in mind that all types of visa start from the date of issue, so you cannot apply well in advance for a visa that becomes valid at a later date.
Transit Visas are granted by Indian missions abroad for stops of up to 72 hours within 15 days from date of issue. These visas are issued only for changing flights en route to another country.
You will need to provide a copy of your air ticket when applying for the visa and, if needed, the visa for your final destination.
Tourist Visas for India are valid for six months. A tourist visa is issued as a multiple entry visa. Keep in mind that this visa is not extendible and not convertible. You will have to leave India to get a new visa once your tourist visa expires.
Getting another tourist visa after you have had two in a row may prove a little difficult. However, nearby Kathmandu is a convenient place to get a new visa.
If you want to travel with your children and they are endorsed in your passport, you will only have to add a passport-sized photo of your child to the application. No extra fees are charged.
If you are visiting India on a business trip you will need a business visa. Business visas are usually valid for six months, though you can also obtain longer term business visas for periods of up to 5 years. The period of stay in India for each visit is limited to 180 days. If your visa is issued for more than six months you have to leave India and re-enter in order not to overstay the 180 days period. Business visas are issued as multiple entry visas.
To apply for a business visa, you have to prove that the purpose of your trip is commercial. You will have to provide two copies of a letter from the company you work for, stating your personal details as well as information about your business partners in India. Additionally you need to hand in an invitation letter from your Indian business partner. An interview may be conducted by one of the officials at the embassy.
Employment Visas & work permits for India
Employment visas, also referred to as E-Visas, are issued to foreigners who want to work for either an international or an Indian company in India. If you want to do an internship in India, you will also need an E-Visa.
The application process for employment visas is complicated and time-consuming. Your employment visa automatically serves as a work permit for India, so once you receive it you will not have to apply for any additional permits to work in India.
Your application can be made either by you or your company. If you do the application yourself, you have to submit it to the Indian embassy or consulate in your home country. If your company manages the application, it can also be submitted in India.
In addition to the documents above you need to provide:
- your original employment contract
- a good conduct certificate from your home country
- a health certificate
- the Employment Visa Proforma (attached to your visa application)
- the E-Visa company/salary/tax summary proforma (attached as well)
- proof of your company´s registration
If you want to change jobs in India you will need to apply for a new work visa. You can apply for the new visa either at an embassy or consulate in your home country or at an FRRO/FRO (Foreigners Regional Registration Office / Foreigners Registration Office) in India.
Entry Visas and visas for spouses and families
Entry Visas are valid for six month to five year stays, with multiple entries. These visas are only given to persons of Indian origin or to family members of persons employed in India.
You will have to provide additional documentation to apply for an entry visa. If you are a person of Indian origin you need to hand in either:
- your birth certificate
- or your PIO card
If you apply for an entry visa as family member of an employment visa holder, you will have to provide:
- a copy of the employment visa
- a copy of your family register to prove your relationship
In the second case your visa will usually be issued for the time the employment visa is valid. It can be extended along with the E-Visa. In addition, the entry visa, sometimes called dependent visa, can be changed into an employment visa in the event you start working in India as well.
Note that India does not recognize gay or lesbian unions.
Student visas for India are valid for the period of study in India. They have to be renewed every year, up to a maximum of 5 years. Multiple-entry visas are given to genuine students for regular studies at recognized institutions in India.
Besides the general documentation, you will need to provide further documents for the application:
- proof of sufficient financial means during your studies in India
- a letter of acceptance issued by a recognized Indian university or school
Journalists can apply for a 3 month, single-entry journalist visa. You will need to provide proof of your professional status, such as a letter from a reputable media agency. If you want to travel to India to shoot a movie you will need to file special application forms.
Restricted/Protected Area Permits
To enter certain regions in India you will need a special permit. These regions include eastern states such as Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Sikkim (due to their close location to Myanmar and Bangladesh). Some regions in the North and Northwest also require a special permit, including parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. Since these regions, especially Jammu and Kashir, have seen terrorist activities throughout recent decades you should take special care when visiting them. Andaman and the Nicobar Islands require you to have a Restricted/Protected Area Permit as well.
The permit is free and issued by the Resident Commissioner of the State, the FRRO of the State or by the Foreign Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi. The application is comparatively easy - you only have to fill in a form stating the purpose and duration of your stay in the region. Permits are issued on the same day.