If you’re planning a trip to India with a US passport, you have 2 options. The first is to get an E Visa and the other is to get a 10 year (or shorter) paper visa via the Indian embassy. Here’s the thing, if you think you might go to India more than twice within that 10 year span, you’re better of going with the 10 year visa from the start.
To get a 10 year visa for US citizens, you MUST go through the Cox & Kings Global Services website and follow the process there. You cannot go directly through the Indian embassy since CKGS is the only service provider of visas for Americans.
How much does it cost?
An E Visa costs for those from the US is $100. That is valid for one year and allows multiple entries. The 10 year visa costs $150 (plus overnight shipping costs both ways). Thus, the price, with shipping, is about double the cost but if you think you might come back in the future, it’s pretty much a no brainer.
How long does it take?
The E Visa should be submitted no less than 4 days before travel. Upon submission, a decision as to whether you’ve been approved or denied should come within 3-5 days (even though I’ve heard the turn around time is much quicker).
With the paper visa, it took exactly 8 days from the day I mailed my passport and paperwork to CKGS to the day I receive my passport back. It was actually really quick which really surprised me.
What is the process like?
The CKGS website isn’t the most user friendly interface to be honest. There are questions on the form that really don’t apply to the US Citizens (like putting USDOS as your place of issue). Also, they warn you to fill out info like a contact phone number and an email address but it isn’t marked as necessary on the form. They only tell you that info is mandatory AFTER you’ve filled out the form so if you don’t double check everything before you send it off, you’ll miss it. It’s also annoying how it isn’t mentioned until after you’ve filled out the form (and more than likely already printed it) so you have to go back and reprint it.
Outside of some annoyances, the process is very simple and you’ll just want to make sure you go through all the paperwork and double check it. I think I had to go through it 3 times since I either missed something or didn’t realize I incorrectly filled out the info.
What you’ll need
The only thing you’ll need other than the forms and a passport with at least 6 months of validity is passport photos. You’ll need to paste the photo onto the form (not stapled or taped) and send it in along with other things like a copy of the checklist, passport, and a receipt showing payment.
The biggest problem I had was after I had finished and printed my forms on the Indian government website, you’re supposed to hit the “book appointment” button. However, after I printed the form, the website would automatically close and wouldn’t give me the option to hit the book appointment button. Eventually, I was told to go here.
I ended up having to reach out via email to ask where I was supposed to go since the website doesn’t clearly say where to go. Also, when I tried calling, I just kept getting rerouted in the automatic phone tree and never got through to a live person.
Basic questions on the form
There is a question on the form asking for a reference or a POC in India. If you’re like me and you don’t know anyone, you can use a hotel you might be staying. I don’t know how important this is since I imagine most people aren’t concerned with where we’re staying that far in advance. The form may be the same as the form for the E Visa which may be why the field is there.
It will also ask for the port of entry into India and again, I would just choose a major port of entry like Mumbai or New Delhi since that’s probably where you’ll be flying into if flying. Again, I don’t think it really matters since I’m sure they understand plans can change at any moment and if you have a 10 year visa, there’s no way to know your port of entry every time.
Who should get the visa?
If you have the time to get a 10 year visa, there’s very little reason NOT to get one. Although slightly more expensive and more time consuming, if you think you’ll be back at any time in the future, you might as well get it done now so you don’t have to think about it in the future. Also, know that India is a massive country so the odds of you seeing and doing everything you want in 1 trip are slim. You’ll probably want to go multiple times to explore each city or region vs. racing through the country on a quick 2 week tour.
However, if you’re backpacking the world or wanting to take a spur of the moment trip while in the general vicinity, then the E Visa may be your only recourse. You’ll probably be on a limited timeframe to get the visa so mailing in your passport may not be a viable option. E Visa are perfect for those who are hopping from country to country without a clear itinerary. Just know that if you do decide to go multiple times to India, you’ll by paying much more in the long run.
Getting a visa for India isn’t difficult but don’t expect to get much help from the people at CKGS. You’ll want to make sure you have everything printed out and follow the directions exactly as you fill out the forms. The forms themselves shouldn’t take more than 30 mins to fill out so the largest time commitment is going to be getting your passport photos.
However, I have to say I was incredibly surprised at how quickly I got my passport back. From the day I mailed it to the day I got it back with my visa was 8 days. I was only mailing it to San Francisco but they make you choose overnight shipping so it was incredibly fast.
If planning on a trip to India, definitely consider getting a 10 year visa since it’ll save time and money for future trips.