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What is the Visa Policy for India? Types of Visas Explained

When planning a trip to India, it's important to research the visa policy for your home country. Due to the number of changes to the visa policies in the past five to ten years, you may find that your country has different requirements in comparison to a trip you have taken in the past.

While some visitors can apply for an eVisa online or obtain a visa on arrival, today we're going to look at how you go about applying for an Indian visa at your local consulate this year.

India Visa Background

Over the years, there have been many updates and changes to the visa policy for various countries entering India. Just as recently as 2014, they established the Electronic Travel Authorisation for over forty countries, which then added more countries to total 113 countries in August 2015.

ETAs are used for shorter visits, such as tourism, family and friends visits, business, and medical procedures. They are divided into three categories: tourist, business, or medical e-Visa. At the same time, in 2014, visa on arrival was expanded to 180 countries. However, visitors from Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia were excluded from these programs at that time.

Visa charges for an Indian visa vary from country to country. Certain countries do not pay a fee at all, whereas others will be charged for their application with the Indian consulate. For anyone looking to enter certain parts of India, a Protected Area Permit will be required.

Sometimes these restrictions are lifted for a year, so you'll need to keep an eye on these regulations if you are planning to enter these areas on a trip.

On top of that, certain nationalities, such as Pakistanis, have had their visa applications cut back in recent years. Due to the ever-changing political climate in the country, it's important to research the visa options thoroughly before booking a trip in the future to India.

Popular Visas for India

When it comes to applying for a visa for India, you'll find a wide range of categories available. If you need to apply for a visa from your home country for tourism, you'll need to ensure you are only undertaking the activities listed in this type of visa's rules.

For example, journalists visiting India must apply for the J visa, which allows them to stay for up to three months for this type of work in the country. The business visa is regularly used for trips to India and allows you to undertake a wide range of business activities in the country.

This could include establishing contacts and making sales, and you'll be allowed to stay for up to six months at a time. You'll find various options on offer for this visa, ranging from three months to a year, and with single or multiple entries.

Student visas are available for anyone looking to study in India, and the entry requirements of your visa will be dependent on the course you are registering for. A medical escort visa is offered to anyone visiting someone traveling on a medical visa, and you'll need to provide proof of the treatment that's going ahead in the country.

While these are the most commonly used visa types, you'll also find research visas, intern visas, urgent business visas, and many more options on offer, depending on the nature of your upcoming visit.

Applying for an Indian Visa

After establishing the type of visa you need for your trip to India, you'll need to get in contact with the local Indian consulate in your home country. From there, you'll be provided with the application forms for your visa and can book an appointment for your interview.

To begin your application, you'll need to ensure your passport has at least 180 days of validity and that you have two blank pages to affix your visa. Depending on the type of visa you are applying for, you'll need to show various documentation to support your application.

This may include proof of employment, education, or sufficient funds to cover your trip. You'll also be asked about the dates and accommodation for your trip.

After collecting together the necessary documents for your visa, fill in the online application form, which you can then submit to book your appointment with the consulate. This procedure may vary from country to country, and it may be completed manually in some parts of the world.

Ensure you complete the application properly and that your referees, signatures, and photo are correct. You are advised to also print off your application to bring with you to the appointment along with your appointment confirmation.

The Visa Appointment

During your visa appointment, you'll be required to show your application form, any supporting documents, your appointment confirmation, a declaration form, and then the payment for the visa fee. The payment will vary depending on your visa category. Processing times will vary between each country and depending on how busy your local consulate is, so ensure you don't confirm all of your travel plans until you have obtained the visa. Allow good time ahead of your trip to collect all of the required documentation.

Some countries allow you to track your application online or by email. Most countries allow you to collect your application at the consulate where you had your appointment, or you can pay for your passport to be sent to your home address. It's recommended that you only book your flights and accommodation after receiving your approval.

As you can see, the process for applying for an Indian visa is very similar to other countries. However, their policies are constantly updated, so ensure you are keeping an eye on any changes to your home country's policies.

We recommend that you allow plenty of time to apply for your visa at your local consulate to avoid any delays to your trip. With so many visa categories on offer, ensure you pick the right one to match the purpose of your upcoming visit to India and prevent any issues with your application.

There are several different types of visas that people can get for travel to India. The visa a traveler gets will be determined by the purpose of that person’s visit. 

The general outline for the visa process remains the same as what is outlined above. Any specific documents required will be outlined under the relevant visa type below.

Transit Visa

A transit visa allows a traveler to remain in India for up to 15 days as part of their travel to and from another country.

Many people on transit visas only stay in India for a day or two, until their connecting flight leaves for their final destination.

Travelers who do not plan to leave the international section of the airport will not need a transit visa. 

However, anyone who wants to go through customs, even if only for a few hours, will need this visa.

In order to get a transit visa, travelers need to show proof of travel plans that give them a short amount of time to spend in India.

These visas can be single or double entry, depending on the number of times the traveler needs to transit India in one trip.

Business Visa

A business visa is for travelers who want to establish a business in India or who will be running a previously established business in the country.  

In order to get this visa, travelers will need to submit proof that they have the necessary money to start a business, as well as expertise or standing in the field of the business they propose.

If the person is being brought in to run an established business, they will need to show proof that they have been invited to do so.

This proof can be from an Indian business or a foreign one, depending on who owns the business inside India.

People may also need to show proof that the business they are working with has been formally incorporated in India. 

These visas can be granted for up to 5 years (10 years for US citizens) and allow multiple entries into India.

Extending the visa will require proof that the business has been successful within 2 years of setup or within an agreed-upon time period.

Employment Visa

This visa is for people who plan to work for companies in India.

They need to prove that they are qualified for the job they are hired for, that they will make more than $25,000 per year, and that they have a contract with an Indian company.

They will also need to show that the company they plan to work for has been incorporated formally in India and that it has invited them to come to the country to work.

Employment visas are available for people fulfilling a wide variety of roles in India.

Initially, these visas are good for one year or the term of the contract, whichever time is shorter. The visa may be extended if employment is extended, and extension can be done inside India.

Applicants who want to extend their employment visa will show that they are hired in India, that they filed income tax documents there, and proof that they have not caused problems in India.

Project Visa

Project visas are for very specific types of work in India. Highly skilled workers in the power or steel industry can get this visa for the duration of projects they are working on.

They will need to show that they have been awarded a contract in India, a letter from their employer discussing the project, and proof that the company has been incorporated in India. 

These multiple entry visas are initially granted for 1 year or for the term of the project, whatever is shorter. They can be easily extended for another year.

After that, the visa can be extended some more, but it will require a more detailed application explaining why the project is taking so long or how it has been extended.

Student Visa

Student visas are available for travelers planning to study in India. They may study at a university or in another type of program, such as language or culinary school. 

Applicants will need to show that they have been admitted to a program and to a specific course of study.

They may also need to show that they have the relevant academic credentials to qualify for the course (such as a Bachelor’s degree if they are planning Master’s study in India). 

These visas are usually granted for the length of the course of study of 5 years, whichever is shorter. They can be extended from inside India and allow for multiple entries.

Research Visa

Research visas are available for people doing any type of research in India. These are usually pursued by academics who want to access info in a library or museum in the country.

These travelers need to show that they have the required credentials to pursue their research in India.

They may also need to show that they have been invited to or accepted to research in certain archives or institutions.

Travelers wanting to perform studies in India or participate in ongoing research projects will need to show that they have been invited to do so and that the project has financial backing. 

These visas are usually valid for up to 5 years, permit multiple entries into India, and can be renewed from within the country.

Foreigners of Indian Origin Visa

People who were born outside of India but who are of Indian origin can apply for this visa. They will need to prove their Indian origin in order to be eligible for this visa. 

India offers the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card and the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) card as options for people of Indian descent who are living overseas.

These are different from the visa option, but foreign citizens of India may prefer these to the visa as they are valid for longer. They are also harder to get, though.

People who pursue this visa will have permission to enter India multiple times over 5 years, and they can renew this visa from inside India.

See here for more details on the OCI Card.

Intern Visa

An intern visa is for foreigners who have been accepted into internship programs with NGOs, private companies or educational institutions in India.

Applicants will need to show proof that they have an internship that requires them to be in India. The visa will be valid for one year or the time of the internship, whichever is shorter. 

Interns must register with the Indian government within 14 days of their arrival in India.

They cannot extend this visa, though they may be able to switch to another type if they qualify to remain in the country. 

These visas may be single, double, or multiple entry, depending on a variety of factors such as the applicant’s nationality and the nature of the internship.

Film Visa

A film visa to India is available to any travelers who will be participating in the making of a film in India.

Travelers will need to submit details about the project they are shooting, details about where the film will be shooting, the dates of the shooting, and more.

They will also need to submit a letter of intent that summarizes details about the film, such as the cast and crew, the equipment needed, and any other details. 

The visa will be valid for one year or the duration of the film shoot, whichever is shorter. It can be renewed in India, and may permit one, two, or multiple entries.

Conference Visa

Travelers who plan to attend a conference in India will need to get a conference visa. This visa permits both presenting at conferences and attending them.

Applicants will want to submit information about the conference they will be attending as well as proof that they have registered for it or been asked to speak. 

Their visa will be good for the duration of the conferences. In some cases, people who want to travel in India before or after a conference will be able to get permission to do so.

Medical Visa

The medical visa is for travelers who are coming to India to receive medical treatment there. They must be getting treatment at a recognized hospital or at a specialized treatment center.

Applicants should submit proof of diagnosis, as well as proof that they are working with a medical team for India.

They should submit a treatment plan that includes information about how long the treatment will last and how long they will need to remain in India.

The medical visa will last for the time of the treatment and healing or for one year, whichever is shorter. These visas can be extended if treatment takes longer or more treatment is necessary.

Medical Attendant Visa

People traveling to India for medical procedures can bring someone with them as their attendant. This person’s visa will be separate from the medical visa.

Medical attendants need to provide information about who they will be accompanying to India and what tasks they will be fulfilling for the person they are attending.

They should submit their visa application alongside that of the person they are attending, for easier and expedited processing. 

Their visa will usually be of the same duration as that of the person they will be attending and they can renew it if that person renews theirs.

Mountaineering Visa

Visitors who want to participate in certain mountain climbing activities will need a special visa.

Because the mountains in India draw a larger number of people each year, the government uses these visas to regulate how many can come into the country. 

These visas also help ensure that people who enter India for the purposes of mountaineering know what they are doing and have the support they need to complete their expedition. 

Applicants should submit information about where they plan to go mountaineering, when they plan to go, and what sort of equipment and support they have in place for the trip. 

Mountaineering visas usually only permit a single entry and last for the duration of the trip.

Missionary Visa

People who want to enter India for missionary purposes will need to apply for this visa. Proselytization is not permitted in India and no one may enter the country with this purpose.

This visa includes missionaries from any religion. Anyone entering India with the purpose of doing religious work there may qualify for this visa.

Missionaries will need to submit information about where they plan to work and what they plan to do. If they are entering under an umbrella organization, they will need to note this, too.

Missionaries will need to have a letter of invitation from someone in India. They will also need to note when they plan to leave the country.

Missionary visas are valid for 6 months to 5 years, depending on the nationality of the applicant and their activities in India. 

These visas may include multiple entries and can be extended from inside India.

Diplomat Visas

These visas are for people who are visiting India as officials sponsored by their own country. They will need to hold a diplomatic passport to be eligible for this visa.

Most of the time, these visas are obtained directly by the government and the individual does not have to apply.

The details of these visas will vary based on the individual’s purpose for visiting India, their activities there, and the number of times they may need to enter or leave India.

There is a separate visa for people traveling for United Nations diplomatic purposes.

Official Visa

This visa is for anyone traveling for government purposes other than as a diplomat. Couriers, temporary employees, government contractors, and more may qualify for this visa. 

Like with the diplomat visa, these visas are usually obtained by the government on behalf of the person traveling. The government will let people know what documentation they need.

The details of the visa will be based on the traveler’s purpose in India and the duration of their work there.

There is a separate but related visa for people traveling on official United Nations business.

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