In all of our travels, Travis and I have only applied for visas a few times. We applied for them in Switzerland in 2014 – and again in Germany this year – in order to be allowed to remain in-country beyond the 90-day time frame allowed for tourists. Both times, these visas were required for us to legally work and live as long-term residents. But when it comes to applying for tourist visas, we’ve only applied for them once – back in 2010 for a two-week trip to China. The process was much easier than applying for European work visas, but it was still confusing, time-consuming, and expensive. Ultimately it cost $300 for our two visas, just for two weeks in China. Plus we had to hire a courtier to hand-deliver the documents to the embassy in California.
In less than a month, we’ll be flying to Kashmir for a friend’s wedding, so the deadline for us to apply for tourist visas to India snuck up on us. I expected it to be a nightmare, but I couldn’t have been more wrong!
For starters, we didn’t even have to figure out where or how to apply for visas. Syed, an old friend from Oregon whose wedding we’ll be attending, connected us on Facebook with a Kashmiri friend of his who lives in Germany. Luckily his friend is savvy about Indian visas. He immediately sent us the official link for the Embassy of India in Berlin. He also told us we could apply for Indian e-Tourist Visas online.
Could it really be that simple?!
After scoping out the website, I was grateful to find it to be one of the most user-friendly websites I’ve seen in Germany (and not just because it’s in English). Confirming on their site that US citizens are among those allowed to e-file for tourist visas, I started filling out the online application.
I was able to complete everything up until the end where it required us to upload passport/visa head shots with 5×5 cm dimensions. Taking a brief side-trip to our local DM (similar to a US Rite Aid), we were able to scan one of Trav’s extra photos from his German visa and resize it to the correct dimensions.
Mine, however, wouldn’t work. Making it a square ruined the correct eye-chin-forehead proportions. Unable to find specific passport services in town that could take new photos, Travis edited my photo in Photoshop by making it a square. I then used ACDSee to blend the border into the white background. Photos with borders aren’t accepted.
Crossing our fingers that they wouldn’t reject our applications because of the photos, I went ahead and submitted mine to see if they would accept it. Less than 12 hours later, they sent me an email notifying me it had been approved.
Pretty snazzy, no?!
I then submitted Trav’s application, which they also approved just as quickly. Now we just have to print them out and keep them with us for our arrival in New Delhi, our point of entry in India.
Incidentally, we heard from Syed that someone from the embassy called his family member whom we listed as our contact in India. They wanted to ask why “the Americans” were visiting Kashmir and to confirm our travel itinerary. So much concern, just for Two Small Potatoes!
We’re so ridiculously excited about the trip, and it’s a relief that the visa process didn’t turn out to be a huge headache. I don’t see how a visa application process to travel anywhere could be easier than applying for the Indian e-Tourist Visa.
Wondering how things turn out with our trip to Kashmir?
For expats in Germany applying for Indian visas, the visa fee is determined by your nationality/citizenship, not your German residency. For fellow Americans and folks from the UK, Ukraine, and Mozambique, that means you’ll get smacked with the highest fees – $60 per adult applicant rather than the $48 fee for citizens of most other countries.
You can apply for your Indian e-Tourist Visa up to a month before your arrival in India. Procrastinators must apply at least 4 days before their arrival in the country.
For Americans traveling, it’s a good idea to notify the US State Department of your travels outside the US. You can register via STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) and add your travel itinerary. Not only do they notify you of travel advisories, but in the event of an emergency, it’s easier for them to contact your family and for your family.
Website for Indian e-Tourist Visa (online application for visa). Note that if you choose to apply via this site, you are no longer on the official Embassy of India website. This particular website for the e-Tourist Visa, however, is listed on the embassy’s official site and is still a secure site. If you search for companies that can apply for visas to India on your behalf, you’ll get a laundry list of them. How many of them are reputable is anyone’s guess, and you’ll have their own fees to file for you.
If you prefer, you can always still apply for a visa the good old-fashioned way by submitting your documents directly to the Embassy of India in your respective country or region.