Traveling to India as a U.S. citizen has become more accessible post-pandemic, with streamlined visa processes. In this comprehensive step-by-step guide, I’ll walk you through the steps to show you how to get your Indian visa if you’re a U.S. citizen. Understanding the visa application process is essential for a smooth journey and with that out of the way, you can focus on your India trip planning.
Table of Contents: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Apply for an Indian Visa (for U.S. Citizens)
- 0.1 Differences between a regular Indian visa and Indian e-visa?
- 0.2 What is the official India Visa application website?
- 0.3 What documents do I need for an India tourist visa?
- 0.4 Which internet browser should I use for applying for my India tourist visa?
- 1 How to Apply for a regular Indian Visa for U.S. Citizens
- 2 How to Apply for an Indian e-Visa for U.S. Citizens (Online Application)
- 3 Watch India Travel Guides for Solo Travelers!
Differences between a regular Indian visa and Indian e-visa?
There are two ways to apply for your Indian Tourist Visa: the regular paper India visa application and the Indian e-Visa. Both options offer the same visa types and durations.
But the differences end there. Determining which to get is based upon how you wish to use it in entry points and how much cost and processing time you can afford. From a tourist standpoint, the only caveat to getting a regular paper India visa is that you will have more flexibility with entry points as they are not only limited to airport access, but sea and land as well. When I was researching how to do an overland passage to India after my group adventure in Pakistan, crossing the Wagah-Attari border into Amritsar required the regular Indian tourist visa .
With the regular India tourist visa, the price is also more expensive with the VFS mail-in/courier process and processing time can be much longer, especially if there is an issue with your application or documents. The paper Indian tourist visa is a process you will need to start well over a month in advance of your travel dates.
Meanwhile, the Indian e-Visa can be done online and you’ll get it lickety-split and for tons cheaper. It’s almost as if the Indian government prefers for tourists to just get the Indian e-Visa. The drawback is that you can only enter India via the airport. Land and sea is not allowed.
What is the official India Visa application website?
Both regular and eVisa can be accessed through the Indian Visa Online website at https://indianvisaonline.gov.in
Although the India eVisa is a bit tricky and it is in a sub section of the website and they do not link to it (duh!). You won’t be able access the Indian evisa easily unless you Google it or so I’ve listed it here. Note: There are other India visa sites that you’ll find on the internet, but this is the official one. I don’t believe the other sites are scams, but you may end up paying more to get it expedited through one of the other visa sites.
What documents do I need for an India tourist visa?
Gather the following documents for a successful application:
- Passport with at least 6 months’ validity.
- Details of recent travel history (10 years back- all the countries you’ve been to; although you won’t be able to list everything. At some point, you get cut off).
- Previous India visa details (if applicable). If you traveled to India in the past, you will need to know your last visa number and the date it was authorized. You can check in your passport or in your email if you still have the information
- Current citizenship details.
- Printed application form.
- Reference contact in India. This can also mean your tour operator/friend/family you’re staying with or hotel information. I list my hotel information. Booking.com
Photo Upload Requirements:
Ensure your visa photo meets these specifications and read carefully because the passport conditions are tricky if you’re submitting documents for an India eVisa.
- Visa Photo Format: JPEG, maximum 1 MB, 2 inches by 2 inches.
- Photo must show 80% of your face against a white background
- Scanned passport bio page in PDF format (for e-Visa applications). Size must be under 300kb! Note: This will take time because when you export your jpg or png photo to pdf, it will uprez your photo. So your photo might be 300kb, but after exported into pdf, it can be 3 mb! My settings were 72 dpi resolution but ultimately, I had to take the size below 500 dpi width. Yep, it’s kinda small, when you view it on the application form but it is bigger when you open your pdf on your laptop. Make sure your information is clear and easy to read.
Which internet browser should I use for applying for my India tourist visa?
The website is best viewed in Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer (Windows) version 9.0 and Android and iOS.
How to Apply for a regular Indian Visa for U.S. Citizens
In the past, getting an Indian tourist visa was complex. After the pandemic, requirements changed and they made it much easier to get a tourist visa, a long term visa (i.e. 5 year and 10 year) and multiple entry. But there’s still aspects that can be confusing to U.S. travelers.
1. Getting a regular India Tourist Visa in the U.S. (paper or sticker)
Applying for the regular India Tourist Visa (paper or sticker) in your home country is a time consuming route because it is a mail-in service and India uses a third party service to facilitate this process.
Regular India Tourist Visa (Paper Application)
- Application process: Requires mailing the application and using a third-party service.
- Processing time: Up to 15 days, potentially 30-60 days if scrutiny is needed.
- Visa validity: Starts on the issuance date. So you might not want to apply too far in advance if you want to use the most of your allowance stay.
- Application link: The Indian Online Visa website is where you apply. It is confusing because it says says “online” which can feel like the same thing as e-visa. Rest assured, this is it. The window opens to the process and you’ll see the photo below.
- Fill out the form and remember to keep your ID number. You will be able to save your form and return back to it in the case you cannot complete it in one sitting. But you will need your ID number. I forgot to keep mine the first time. But I was filling out the regular India visa; not the evisa, which I ultimately decided upon.
- When you’re complete with your form, download it and print it out to mail in.
- Indian Tourist Visa Application (Mail in process): Here’s where it gets a little extra. The outsourced service that handles the regular Indian tourist visa application for U.S. citizens is VFS global website (2023).
- You may walk your application into a VFS center nearest you; otherwise, mail your application and passport in. VFS locations in the U.S.: Washington DC, New York, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco & Atlanta .
- VFS Global Indian Visa Application Centre,
128 East, 32nd Street, 2nd Floor, New York, 10016.
- Email only for questions [email protected], Helpline: +1-800-320-9693
- They are very specific about the type of visa photo, application and packaging when mailing it in.
- There is a 3.5% fee for the online payment convenience and another $18 for return courier service.
Cost and Duration of regular India Tourist Visa for U.S. Citizens, Entry & Fee
10 Years – Single Entry $178
5 Years – Multiple Entry $178
6 Months – Multiple Entry $178
How to Apply for an Indian e-Visa for U.S. Citizens (Online Application)
Getting an Indian Tourist eVisa online is probably the easiest and fastest and cheapest method if you were ever in a hurry and you’re afforded the same amount of stay. But you can only enter through airport entry points.
- Application process: Online application through the official Government of India Online VISA website.
- Processing time: Quick, with application completion within 10-15 minutes.
- Visa validity: Starts from the date of arrival.
- Entry points: Limited to major international airports in India. Applicant can arrive at 30 e-Visa designated airports i.e. Ahmedabad , Amritsar , Bagdogra , Bengaluru , Bhubaneshwar , Calicut , Chandigarh , Chennai , Cochin , Coimbatore , Delhi , Gaya , Goa (Dabolim), Goa (Mopa), Guwahati , Hyderabad , Jaipur , Kannur , Kolkata , Lucknow , Madurai , Mangalore , Mumbai , Nagpur , Portblair , Pune , Tiruchirapalli , Trivandrum , Varanasi , Vishakhapatnam and 5 designated seaports (i.e. Chennai , Cochin , Goa , Mangalore , Mumbai ). However, he/she can depart from any of the authorized Immigration Check Posts in India.
- e-Visa is not allowed for employment, NGO activities and journalism purposes
- Avoid using any other websites that sell the Indian e-Visa. They are not the official website and the Indian consulate is very specific about that.
- Apply at least 4 days before departure as validity starts from date of arrival.
- Arrival port must be one of the 29 major international airports in India
- Application Link: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/ (you can see the ports of entry on this page)
- A sample of the application
- Passport photos and passport bio page must be scanned for online upload.
- Once processed, you will get your visa sent via email and you can print it out.
Duration and Costs of Visa for U.S. Citizens, Entry & Fee
1 year Indian tourist e-visa $40
5 year Indian tourist visa $80
And a 2.5% online fee.
Listing References for your India Tourist Visa
Listing references and proof is the part which trips up a lot of travelers applying for the Indian visa. It’s the stressful part because it forces travelers to lock itinerary details and long-term or nomadic travelers~ like myself~ usually like to keep part of their trip itinerary open.
References for your stay in India: If you’re not staying with an Indian friend or family, you can list your hotel or tour company as a reference. I like to use Booking.com, There are many travelers who visit India on an open backpacking trip where they don’t have many solidified details such as hotels or departure dates. Booking.com has free hotel cancellation on many of its listings, so you can book your hotels and if you decide that your plans have altered, cancel and change them accordingly.
Note: I try to cancel ASAP once I know if my plans have changed out of courtesy to the hotels who will be losing me as a customer and losing money if they cannot find a replacement guest.
Visa Photo Requirements
Read the website specifications for the passport photos you must send in. The trickiest part of this is not the visa photo but getting your passport bio data page down to under 500kb as a pdf (tip: it’s small)!
I always make extra copies of my passport photos, for future travel purposes and the fact, if you’re getting an Indian SIM card, you’ll need two photos for your application.
What Profession should you list ?
Firstly, if you’re applying for a Tourist visa, then your sole reason for visiting should be Tourism.
If you have a freelance job in India or you’re a travel blogger, travel writer, photographer, freelance/professional media, yoga student (going for schooling or certification), etc… do not list these professions or reasons unless you’re applying for a Journalist, Business or Student visa. By acknowledging these professions or other reason for being in India, under a Tourist visa, your visa will be under additional scrutiny and you may be declined or flagged. I always just claim “Artist” or Salesperson or something standard to a tourist. Even when I did my yoga teacher’s certification, I was told to not mention that unless I wanted to apply for a Student visa.
Do I need an India visa for layovers in India?
If you have a layover in India, and do not plan to leave the airport terminal (and do not need to go past immigration),then you do not need an Indian visa or a transit visa.
However, if your baggage is not checked all the way through to your destination an you need to retrieve it and re-check it, you will need an Indian visa.
Hope this guide on how to apply for an India visa was helpful to you! Applying for an Indian visa can feel overwhelming but visiting India is so worthwhile. Hope you love India as much as I do.