Indian Tourist Visa application process
Indian tourist Visa application process – a bitter pill turns into a satisfying beginning before the feast of India!
Visa process can be “a bitter pill to swallow” warned Joji Jacob, from All Things India Travel, before being able to enjoy what will undoubtedly be a great experience.
I’d consulted Joji as I’d heard from other travellers that getting their Visa for India was quite a challenge and was nervous about how I’d be able to do this by myself. Although I’ve travelled around the world over many years, I had generally been lucky to have either my employers or my ever-loving husband manage the bureaucratic processes for me.
Now, on my first independent foray, I was finding it quite complicated. I was certainly grateful that Joji had assured me he was only a message or email away to help me, and he was true to this promise and responded immediately to several questions.
Working from the India High Commission website link Joji had already sent us, I had no trouble finding the Visa application form. Once I got through the easy questions, there were others where I had to pause, go away and collect information not easily on hand. The form doesn’t allow me to scroll down to the end before I began, to see what was coming up and be ready. One question required my address and phone number in India, so I emailed Joji who very promptly gave that to me. Another question was about whether or not I’d visited India before. Yes, I had, a long time ago, but the High Commission needed to know my previous visa number and date, so I had to go and forage through my old passports – thank heavens I’d kept them! Then they wanted to know all the cities in India I’d stayed in previously. So I took a while to dig out my photo album from that trip and was happy to find a list of the main places I’d been.
I also had to report names of the towns where both my mother and my father were born and I just had to make a judicious guess for those.
It seems that the High Commission has taken into account that applicants will have to pause and go and search for this information. Fortunately, the application form online allows you, as you go, to choose to temporarily exit, with a code to write down to get back into it and continue. Unfortunately, my computer skills are imperfect, and somehow I couldn’t manage to get back to where I was up to and had to start all over again – three times!
Another question was whether I had ever been refused an Indian Visa etc. I carefully clicked on No, but when I eventually got to the end of the form I found a box telling me to repeat the Refuse question. On checking back I found that had reverted to Yes – seems to be a default option that pops up as soon as you’re not looking. I did correct that two or three times before I thankfully got it to stick on the No!
I had been concerned about the required photo, supposed to be uploaded onto the form online. Again, I wasn’t confident about this manoeuvre, and was relieved when Joji told me that I could stick on a paper photo to take into the High Commission. I’d found on their website a Visa Checklist which specifies the size of the photo – 2”x2” or 51x51 mm. I went to my local Petone Postshop at 9am to be first in the queue there, and found the staff very efficient in producing my two photos.
After all that I set off to the High Commission, at the top of Molesworth Street, on the 9th floor. I ran in to the main entrance and pushed through the swing gate towards the lifts. This raised a very loud alarm siren – and then I noticed a police officer sitting at a desk waiting for me to ask his permission to go into the foyer and release the barrier for me. It turns out the building houses NZ Police National HQ!
After all that, I’m happy to report that my experience at the Indian High Commission was smooth sailing – the staff very pleasant and efficient. I was given a card with a number so I knew my place in the queue, and could then sit peacefully for a few moments watching the progress of other applicants. The woman in front of me had not realised that her $95 visa fee must be paid in cash, so she had to dash out again to the ATM at the New World down the road. I was glad I’d noticed this requirement on the website and had the cash ready when my number came up. This was all that they needed, along with my completed form, my passport, and an addressed courier bag to have it returned to me. I did attach a copy of my return air tickets, as Joji has suggested, but that wasn’t mentioned on the website or form, and I’m not sure if that was required. There was no interview nor any questions asked. The time I was in the Indian High Commission was less than 15 minutes. I was told my passport with visa would be returned to me in about a week.
So here’s hoping it turns up all completed and I can safely get on with the great book and DVD that my fellow traveller Irene has kindly lent me, and the rich list of further preparatory research that Joji has sent us.
I certainly appreciated all Joji’s supportive back-up and expert advice and the very gracious and helpful way he responded to my questions and enabled me to get it all done with confidence. I’m sure his superb professional and friendly support will be continuing throughout the trip, and just can’t wait to get going!
by Ruth Mansell
Guest travelling with All Things India Travel on a personally escorted tour of South India in Jan 2016