Obtaining an India e-Visa

By Stephen Addison
This item appears on page 14 of the March 2020 issue.

My wife and I took a tour of India in November-December 2019, and I thought I would share what I learned about obtaining a tourist visa.

Any US citizen planning to visit India as a tourist must get an e-Visa in advance. Per India’s Immigration and e-Visa portal (an official government website, indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html),
“… you cannot apply for a visa at the airport. You need to have an e-Visa before travelling to India. Then you can get the visa stamp in your passport when you arrive.”

(You may see references to getting a visa on arrival at the airport in India, but that is available only to nationals of Japan, South Korea and the UAE.)

Note that the validity period of an e-Visa starts on the day the e-Visa is issued, not the date you arrive in India.

Application rules and EXTENSIVE details about e-Visas are available at the website mentioned above. Set aside plenty of time to review and digest the information. (Afterward, do a Google search for India e-Visa tips and experiences; you’ll find some sad tales about problems making payments on the website. They really spooked me.)

Here is some helpful information I gathered about e-Visas:

• In Google searches, the advice I saw from people who successfully used the e-Visa website was that the Chrome browser worked best. I have found Chrome very useful when accessing non-English websites, since it can translate the websites’ text to English.

• I also read that copying and pasting data into the e-Visa form often works better than typing, uploading files is challenging, and (the coup de grace), at the end, your credit card might not be accepted!

Sample question — “What is the place of birth of each parent?” Really? That was tough, since both of my parents were born over a century ago in rural areas and at home.

It also can be difficult to enter all of the “key” countries you’ve visited in the past 10 years.

• Digital photos are required, and passport photos aren’t good enough. There is a list of EIGHT requirements for the photos. We’ve obtained visas for Russia and China; each was a pain but not as painful as applying for our India visas.

• Rather than attempt to fill out the form on the official Indian website, we decided to use a visa service to get our India visas. Some online comments warned against using CKGS Application Center (the Government of India’s visa contractor). Our tour operator, Uniworld, recommended VisaCentral (visacentral.com). After studying other visa services, we selected VisaCentral. Their process was clear, straightforward and fast. (Yes, we still had to answer all the intrusive questions.) Our e-Visas arrived within a week as error-free PDF files.

Our one-year, multiple-entry e-Visas each cost $178. (Although the Indian government showed the cost of ordering a visa directly from them as being $40 each plus a 2.5% credit card fee, many people who did so reported online that they ended up paying much more, closer to what we paid. That was a factor in my decision to forgo applying directly for the e-Visas.)

There is a wide variety of e-Visas, with different prices. Prices also vary according to applicants’ nationalities.

• E-Visas include multiple colors of text and graphics plus a color copy of your photo. Consequently, I can’t imagine that a black-and-white hard copy of an e-Visa would be acceptable.

Be sure to take at least one color hard copy of your e-Visa, which fills up most of an 8½"x11" sheet of paper. (Print it out at a copy shop, if necessary.) Have your e-Visa readily available for all outbound flights to India. Excepting US domestic flights, it will be checked before you board each flight segment on your way to India.

• Before your arrival, there is even more paperwork to deal with, including a landing card that must be completed. (This is provided by a flight attendant and is also available at the airport.) Landing cards, e-Visas and passports all must be presented at Immigration.

Hopefully, these tips will get your India visit off to a good start.


Charlotte, NC