Comparing India visa costs

By Alan R. Lichtenstein
This item appears on page 20 of the May 2020 issue.
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In the letter “Obtaining an India e-Visa” (March ’20, pg. 14), a traveler described how he paid $178 to a third-party visa-processing service for a one-year multiple-entry e-Visa to India rather than attempt to complete the confusing online application process on the Indian government’s website (https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html), where he would have paid only $40 plus a 2.5% credit card fee.

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In the letter “Obtaining an India e-Visa” (March ’20, pg. 14), a traveler described how he paid $178 to a third-party visa-processing service for a one-year multiple-entry e-Visa to India rather than attempt to complete the confusing online application process on the Indian government’s website (https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html), where he would have paid only $40 plus a 2.5% credit card fee.

Rather than get a one-year visa, in January 2020 I applied online directly with the Government of India’s visa contractor, Cox & Kings Global Services*, or CKGS (www.ckgs.com), and obtained a 10-year multiple-entry visa for $197.50 — a far greater value. [Through the third-party visa service that the above-mentioned traveler used, the cost for a 10-year visa is $199. — Editor]

The $197.50 included $17.50 for return shipping of my passport by FedEx. (Cox & Kings requires that passports be shipped via FedEx or UPS.)

I saved some money because I took my applications directly to one of the half dozen CKGS Application Centers in the US, saving the cost of mailing them in. Unfortunately, unlike in the past, CKGS will no longer allow you to pick up the visa in person after it is processed, so you’re on the hook for the cost of their shipping it back.

I won’t deny that the instructions CKGS gives on its website can be confusing, just as the traveler found on the government’s website. You have to go from one form to another, and in many instances, the CKGS website does not allow you to go back to a previous page if you’ve made an error. At times I wanted to tear my hair out. However, they list a number you can call for assistance, and I found it extremely helpful for clarifying any confusion I had.

While it took me the better part of three days to complete the CKGS process for my wife and myself, I did get our visas. The visa-processing service used by the above-mentioned traveler very likely provided clearer instructions to follow, but the point is that, instead of applying for a one-year e-Visa, a 10-year visa in your passport gives you a whole lot more bang for your buck.

Even if you were planning to visit India only once, if you were forced to cancel your trip and could not return within a year, you would be out of luck with only a one-year visa, and that’s a situation that many travelers have found themselves facing recently.

ALAN R. LICHTENSTEIN
Commack, NY

*For US passport holders, all applications for visas to India will be processed through Cox & Kings Global Services. Even when a traveler uses a third-party visa service, that service sends the application through Cox & Kings on behalf of the traveler. (Note: As of press time, India had stopped processing visas until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.)