You’re headed to India!!
Is applying for an Indian tourist visa in 2019 easy?!
In true India-style…
Not exactly. 😉
If you encounter a little bit of difficulty or stress, just consider that applying for your Indian visa can be your first “India” experience. 😉
You might say it’s easy because it IS possible to apply for one type of tourist visa online. (So it’s possible to get one without going to a consulate or embassy, or without mailing in your passport.)
You might say it’s easy because as long as you follow the instructions, you’ll get your visa.
That’s the key… you need to follow the instructions!
And between the type you submit your application and the type you receive the approval, it could be an agonizing and stressful few days wondering if you’ve actually filled out your application correctly.
So I’m American.
My first trips to India were back in the days that usually 6-month tourist visas for India were given to Americans. (This is no longer the case.)
I have gotten a 6-month multiple-entry visa when I applied in the US. I went in person to submit my passport in DC.
But I also have gotten a 3-month single entry visa when I applied from outside the US. I went in person to submit my passport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Currently, I have a 10-year tourist visa in my passport. I mailed in my passport.
Nowadays, I would say…
You have 2 main options for getting your tourist visa for India as an American:
- 1-year e-visa you can apply for online anywhere in the world – government website or partner website for convenience
- 10-year tourist visa you’re probably better off applying for in the US through mail – government-trusted website
More on each of these options coming up, but either way…
You need to apply for these before you arrive in India!
For most other nationalities, the 1-year e-visa will probably work out well for your trip to India.
That includes UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, and more!!
For countries outside the US, you can also apply through the government.
Or you can also find your country here and apply with ivisa too. That can work for tourist visas, business visas, and medical visas.
Applying for your India visa through ivisa is the easy way to get your visa as it can take some of the stress out of it!
That said, it’s very possible to apply on your own, too.
There have been many success stories of people applying for their e-visa with the ivisa service, and now I’m a partner.
So ivisa can be trusted as a 3rd party service to get your Indian tourist visa if you want to take the stress out of applying on your own through the Indian government website.
Things having to do with India tourist visas can constantly change!
That’s for Americans, and for all nationalities!
For example, a few years ago the India government introduced the e-visa for tourists, which allowed people from tons of countries, including the US, to apply online for a tourist visa. That was a good thing.
Not too long ago, the e-visa was valid for 2 months. Well, 60 days to be exact. (Not bad!)
But then even more recently (spring 2019?), the e-visa validity was changed to 1 year for citizens of most countries, again including US citizens. This again was a good thing!
And then even more recently (summer or fall 2019?), the e-visa fee dropped – by half the cost than it was before! This again was a very good thing!
So it’s always good to try to find updated info!
While I would like to try to keep this page updated, I honestly can’t guarantee it. So just make sure you are looking at current info for the important things.
Indian visa fees: How much does it cost for an Indian tourist visa?
Cost of e-visa
A check in September 2019 showed that the e-visa cost for US citizens is around $40. (Again, the fees keep changing – it wasn’t too long ago that the evisa fee was $100! So check for current pricing.)
If you go for the convenience and less stress option, the cost for your e-visa will be around $76.
You don’t need to apply through this site, but it’s an easy way to figure out the current e-visa cost. Select your country, and then just look at the “visa cost” only. That is what it will cost you if you go through the government site.
Cost of 10-year visa for Americans
Here’s the total cost I paid when applying for a 10-year Indian tourist visa in 2017, with shipping covered both ways, to the consulate and for the return of my passport.
I went for the more convenient option (again, less stress!) which added to the cost a little bit. I went with the suggested shipping which was a bit of an added cost.
The major fees for my Indian visa application:
- Tourist visa $100
- CKGS service fee $17
- Shipping fees, with return $30
Check the fine print of the visa to see how long you’re able to stay in India for at one time
One important thing (among many) to look at once you do get your visa.
This applies to longer visas. (Over 6 months.)
For a 1-year visa or 10-year visa, it’s likely that you can stay for no longer than 180 days at a time.
So just because you get a 1-year e-visa, it doesn’t mean that you can just stay in India for a year without leaving.
And count your days – make sure it’s 180 days, not that you’re just counting 6 months! Those 31-day months might make a difference! (That whole thing about overstaying your visa for one day is bad.)
And just because you get a 1-year visa might not mean that you can spend 11.5 months in India.
It seems that the max in 1 year is 300 days on a multiple-entry visa.
The multiple entry visa means you can travel as many times in a year. The total number of stay in a year must not exceed 300 days.
Know the start date of the visa
In many cases, the start date will be the date of issue, NOT the date you enter India.
So be sure you understand this – as this also affects how long you can be in India, along with your flights to India!
Meaning, you don’t want to book your flight to leave India after your visa expires!
Personally, I think giving yourself breathing room of a few days before your visa requires you to leave India is best. Just in case something happens and you’re forced to stay in India an extra day or 2.
Check to see if you were granted a single-entry visa or multiple-entry visa
Once you get your visa, look it over and read the fine print too.
This will likely apply more if you get a shorter visa, which nowadays may not happen, but still a good thing to know!
As an American, you’ll likely get a multiple-entry visa for a 1-year e-visa or 10-year regular tourist visa, but check just to make sure.
Don’t even try to overstay your visa – not even for 1 day!
This is an important thing that will never change.
Immigration in India is serious!
It IS a big deal to overstay your visa, and it most likely will turn into an incredibly stressful (and expensive!) experience.
I know someone who thought 1 day extra was not a big deal, ended up sleeping outside Mumbai airport for a day before finally being able to get an exit visa to leave India days later. (There was a lot of not knowing what to do and stress to go along with it. As a foreigner, you need to show your passport with current visa to check in to hotels, so… where to go?!)
A 1-year e-visa for your trip to India
If you know with (almost) absolute certainty that you will be not be returning to India and it’s more of a one-time thing, the e-visa may be your best option instead of a 10-year visa.
Or, if you’re in the US but short on time and are worried about mailing in your passport and not getting it back on time, an evisa could be better too.
OR… if you’re outside the US right now, probably the evisa is best too.
The e-visa is convenient because you can apply for it online, and you don’t have to apply in person or send in any documents.
Here’s official information about the e-visa.
Here’s a reliable third-party to get your e-visa through.
Can you apply for an India tourist visa on your own?
In short… YES!
You can apply for your 1-year evisa without any outside help, and you can apply for your 10-year visa without any outside help.
The Indian visa application process can be considered simple yet complicated.
It’s simple because as long as you follow all the directions exactly, it’s really not much of a problem.
But it can also seem complicated because of all of the instructions that you need to make sure you follow precisely.
It can make you feel a bit stressed wondering if you’ve completed everything as required!
It can be stressful when you see a note like this:
“ANY MISTAKE on the visa form, will lead to REJECTION of your visa application.”
No pressure. 😉
If you get rejected because of a mistake, it means you’ll need to start the application process all over again.
And there will be NO refund of your application fee.
And you will have to pay all the application fees again.
And if you’re worried about things like this, that’s when you might think it could be worth it to pay someone else!
Because if you go through this ivisa service, they will make sure you get your evisa.
And if the visa application does get rejected because of a mistake, then they will cover the fees to apply again – you won’t have to pay twice!
But if you are confident in your perfection, then you can most definitely apply on your own. 😉
TONS of people do apply successfully online without any outside help.
But it could just be less stressful to hand off most of the responsibility to someone else!
There is an added fee to go through a third party like ivisa, as opposed to directly through the Indian government, but you can consider this a convenience fee!
If you’re ready to start planning your first trip to India, see…
- Tips for planning a Golden Triangle itinerary by train or bus
- How to spend 2 weeks in North India
- How to spend 1 month in South India
- How to spend 1 week in Kerala
How to get a 10-year tourist visa for India in the US?!
Since this is what I did!
In the summer of 2017, I applied for a 10-year Indian tourist visa.
I was able to get a 10-year visa with multiple entry as requested.
Again, Indian visa application requirements can change at any time, but at last check in June 2019, it seems to still be the same as when I applied.
That said, make sure you check to make sure that you are doing as is required.
This is meant as a general guide on how to apply for an Indian tourist visa from the US as an American citizen based on my experience, opinions, and thoughts.
I am not a visa expert of any kind!
Just make sure that you read everything line by line very carefully, and you will likely pass this test with flying colors! 😉
How to apply for Indian tourist visa in USA
In basic terms, these are things to do to apply for your Indian tourist visa:
- Fill out the application online through Cox and Kings Global Services (CKGS)
- Print out the application
- Paste an appropriate visa photo to the application
- Go through the checklist to make sure you have everything required
- Put the application and your passport into a designated envelope
- Head to your nearest UPS store or FedEx store to send off your application!
Do all this, then you can get your Indian tourist visa in no time!
5 business days to be precise.
Sounds simple, right? 😉
Now, more on how to apply for an Indian visa from the US…
Make sure you have a valid passport
If you need to apply for a passport, head on over to the U.S. State Department’s website here.
If you already have a passport, make sure it meets the requirements necessary to get an Indian visa.
Here are the listed passport requirements:
- You must have at least 6 months validity on your passport
- You must have at least 2 blank pages in your passport
- Passport amendment pages (pages added to your passport because it’s full) are NOT acceptable. In this case, you’ll have to get a new passport.
You can find the passport requirements for an Indian visa here at #6.
The Indian visa application process for a 10-year visa for US citizens
As per the Indian government, you apply for your Indian visa directly through Cox and Kings Global Services (CKGS). They are listed as the “only authorized service provider” for issuing Indian visas in the USA.
CKGS instructs you to first read over these application instructions.
Once you have read over the instructions, you can get started.
Here are tips provided by CKGS on how to fill out the application. You can use it as a guide as you are going through the online visa application.
Most of the application is pretty straight forward, but it’s important that you fill everything out as requested.
Pay special attention to dates. In India, the dates are generally written out as DD/MM/YYYY, different from the United States.
Again, visa applications may change a bit, so the exact look of the application may change, but here a some things to look out for, as I did when I applied a couple years ago!
Type of Indian visa
It is VERY important that you fill this part out correctly!
Type of visa: Tourist Visa
This will be pre-filled out since you indicated earlier that this is the type of visa you are applying for.
Duration of visa: 120
This is to be filled out in months. 12 months x 10 years = 120 months.
Number of entries: Multiple
Be sure that you have this listed as multiple entry.
If you have questions about filling out your Indian visa application, call the Indian consulate
If you have any questions regarding how to fill out the Indian visa application that aren’t answered on the CKGS application tips page, I recommend calling the Indian consulate or CKGS visa application center nearest you.
I did, and they were helpful. There was also minimal wait time.
I called the Chicago office.
You can also call New York, Houston, San Francisco, and Atlanta.
Washington DC doesn’t seem to have a phone number for the embassy, so if you are under the jurisdiction of the DC embassy, try calling a different location or the DC visa application center.
These were a couple of the things that I wasn’t sure about, in case others are wondering the same.
All countries visited won’t fit in the given space
There’s a section in which you need to list countries you’ve visited in the last 10 years. I could not fit all of the countries in the given space. I was told it is fine to list as many as will fit.
All cities visited on previous visit to India won’t fit in given space
Similarly, there’s a section in which you need to list the places you visited on your previous visits to India. I could not fit all of the cities in the given space. Again, I was told it is fine to list as many as will fit.
Address of stay on previous India visit
There’s a section that asks where you stayed on a previous visit to India. I asked if it was okay to list “various guesthouses.” I was told this is fine.
Address to list for upcoming India stay (“Reference name in India”)
There’s a section that asks you to list the address where you will stay on your upcoming trip to India.
I don’t remember if I specifically asked this question, or if this is just how I filled it in.
I did not list an exact address. Instead, I just listed a neighborhood.
I also listed the name of the airbnb host that I was planning on booking with.
Side note: Some people find a hotel address and list it in this space.
You can do research to see where you actually do want to stay (or might want to stay), and list that hotel.
It also says you can do this in the CKGS application tips: “General tourists may use their hotel information.”
So you’ve filled out your application!!
You’ll next be prompted to upload your visa photo. I personally recommend skipping this.
I think it’s easier to get a passport photo taken at Walgreens or CVS and then paste it to your application.
This is acceptable, and this is what I did. I did not upload a photo.
Make sure you follow the instructions required for your visa photo.
If you decide to digitally upload your photo (or even if you don’t), make sure that you fulfill photo requirements. Not submitting a proper photo can be reason for having your Indian visa application rejected.
Passport photos at Walgreens or CVS will likely cost around $15.
You may be able to get your passport photos at your local post office as well for a similar price.
Print the application
You will be prompted to save the application in PDF form so it can be printed.
Continue to follow the given prompts.
Go through the checklist carefully
At some point, you will also be provided a checklist which you also need to print off.
You’ll want to go through the entire list line by line to ensure that you have everything that you need. Physically mark it with check marks so you know you have everything.
This checklist is to be sent in with your visa application.
Shipping instructions for Indian visa application and passport
For convenience and less stress, I recommend using the shipping that’s provided.
You have the option of choosing shipping by UPS or FedEx.
It is an added fee that might seem like a lot.
But it is very convenient, and it will likely result in less hassle or less of a likelihood of issues cropping up.
I think it’s the less stressful way to go!
Once again, there are specific requirements for which type of shipping envelope to use, so make sure that you get the right one.
They say your shipment will be rejected if you don’t use the right size envelope so this is important.
I went to a local UPS store to get the envelope and ship off my Indian visa application.
I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly my passport arrived back.
I sent off my passport on a Friday, and received it back the next Friday!
This is actually how long they say it’ll take (5 business days), but I was still expecting it to take longer.
Can you apply in person for your Indian visa?
If you live near a CKGS visa application center, you may consider hand-delivering your passport and visa application instead of sending it in.
Cities that you can apply for your visa in person include:
- New York
- San Francisco
- Washington, DC
In order to apply in person at any of these visa application centers, you need to live in a state in which the city has jurisdiction.
Text message updates on the status of your Indian visa application
You will also continue to receive text messages with updates on the status of your Indian visa application. Here are the different messages I received:
- Monday: Package received but contents to be verified. Verification outcome will be mailed.
- Monday: Application verified. Processing will now continue.
- Tuesday: Application under process at CKGS.
- Tuesday: Application in transit to the Indian Consulate.
- Wednesday: Application under process at Consulate and they may request more documents if required.
- Wednesday: Application reviewed by Consulate and in transit to CKGS.
- Wednesday: Passport has reached CKGS sorting facility where it is being processed for delivery.
- Thursday: Passport dispatched.
And that’s about applying for your visa for India!
What are the top backpacker destinations for a first trip to India?
India has the reputation of being a hard country to travel around.
But once you get past certain things, I believe that India can actually become a pretty easy and convenient place to travel around.
Being a country of a billion people, there are always people trying to get to different places, which means there is plenty of transportation available, and often for CHEAP!
And then there’s also the general class train for short trips that can be less than a dollar, and an overnight sleeper train for longer distances that might be US$10-20+ depending on the distance and level of comfort you’re looking for.
Still, if it’s your first time, you first need to get used to things.
And starting your trip in a place like chaotic and crowded Delhi where anyone and everyone is trying to rip off foreigners (that’s the reputation anyway) can be overwhelming.
So, if you want to dive into India head first, you can start up north in Delhi. 😉
Tons of foreigners seem to start in Delhi.
This is likely because this is where you can find the cheapest flights from abroad.
Otherwise, I think the south can be a slightly less chaotic overall start.
In south India, Mumbai can be another international airport you may consider as an access point for backpacking around South India.
Goa and Kerala are among the most popular destinations among foreigners.
You may also consider flying into the Goa airport, or in Kerala you may consider flying into Cochin airport COK or Trivandrum airport TRV. These airports will likely cost more to fly into compared to Mumbai or Delhi.
There are also backpacker hostels in India that often generally have modern amenities for a comfortable stay.
Wherever you start your trip, and wherever you are in India, just remember: it’s all about managing your expectations!
Keep your expectations in check, and you can have the best trip ever!
Bookmark this website for later! 😉
GOOD LUCK ON YOUR INDIAN VISA APPLICATION! 😉
The need-to-know India travel tips!If it's your first trip to India, be sure to see these tips for getting around India on a budget, and more! You might wait until India to buy this mosquito repellent that works for many foreigners! Also be sure to see how to spend one month in South India and 2 weeks in North India, as well as tips for the Golden Triangle. And, overnight sleeper bus travel isn't so bad, and neither is traveling in general class on the train! Also see the easy way to get an e-visa. And this is the easy way to book train tickets online as a foreigner. I've used it, and it's simple! You can just show the e-ticket on your phone.
There are affiliate links on this page that lead to partner websites.
Hostels in KeralaFor a hostel with international standards in Kerala, try Zostel!
More Zostels in Kerala:
Zostel is a top backpacker chain across India, and I've stayed at many Zostels in India! And outside of Kerala, if you'll be passing through Gokarna as you go from Goa to Kerala (here are options of how to get from Goa to Kerala!), then Zostel Gokarna is in an amazing location too! Here are pictures from the on-site cafe that overlooks the ocean.
Where to stay on the tourist trail in KeralaThese places basically go down the coast from north to south!
- Cochin: Try a homestay in the cute heritage area of Fort Kochi.
- Marari Beach: This is an "off-beat" location as Marari is mostly unknown to backpackers, but it can be a convenient stop to make between Cochin and Alleppey with chill laid back vibes. For an idea of what type of beach can be nearby, see my beach walk from Alleppey to Marari.
- Alleppey Beach:
- Funky Art Beach House again for chill vibes with a location among locals in a residential neighborhood
- And there's Zostel Alleppey too for another beach location to stay several days
- OR if Alleppey is a quick visit, try Dream Nest to be closer to town
- And see how to spend one day in Alleppey (short version: go for the backwaters village canoe tour instead of a houseboat!)
- Alleppey backwaters:
- Munroe Island: This is another generally kind of more off-beat location, and you can see a different part of the Kerala backwaters on a quiet island
- Varkala cliff:
Retreats in KeralaFor relaxation and rejuvenation for health and wellness, also see:
- Yoga retreats in Kerala
- Ayurveda retreats in Kerala - ayurveda is basically healthy living through natural herbs and remedies, and Kerala is the birthplace of ayurveda!
How to book India train tickets online as a foreignerIf you don't want to go through the complicated process of setting up an IRCTC Indian railways account as a foreigner...
Then the most convenient way to buy train tickets online is through this booking website. I've used it, and it's super simple! You buy the ticket, and then show the electronic version on your phone once you're on the train. Compared to buying directly through an Indian ticket booking website (IRCTC account required) or directly at the train station in India, there is a small convenience fee, as well as a less flexible cancellation policy, though!